The Supreme Court yesterday referred the two factional leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi – back to the Court of Appeal for the decision on who has the right to lead the party.
The court also ordered a former factional candidate of the party in Ondo State, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, to file a fresh appeal in furtherance of his objection to the decision of the Court of Appeal in favour of Eyitayo Jegede, now the governorship candidate of the PDP. The election holds tomorrow.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling of a five-man panel, led by Justice Walter Onnoghen, struck out an interlocutory appeal by leaders of the Southwest state executive councils installed by the Sheriff factional leadership.
The court directed the appellants, led by a factional chairman of the PDP in Ondo State, Mr. Biyi Poroye, to return to the Court of Appeal for a final judgment on the substantive appeal, relating to the question about which of the factional leaderships could instruct lawyers to act for the PDP.
The substantive appeal was filed by the Makarfi factional leadership against the ruling by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, recognising the right of the Sheriff-led faction to make decisions for the party, including briefing lawyers on its behalf.
When the Court of Appeal ruled that it would hear the Makarfi groups’ appeal with the objection raised against it by the Sheriff faction, it appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which was the interlocutory appeal that was struck out yesterday
While referring the interlocutory appeals to the lower court for the determination of the substantive appeals, the Supreme Court brushed aside efforts by appellants’ lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede to distinguish his appeals from those relating to the Ondo governorship election.
The Supreme Court said the appellants or any other party that is not satisfied with the Court of Appeal’s final judgment on the issue could appeal the judgment and include their challenge of the interlocutory decisions.
The court also gave similar directives on other interlocutory appeals relating to the choice of candidate for the PDP in the Ondo State election.
The apex court said, in view of the Court of Appeal’s November 23 judgment, which voided Ibrahim’s candidature – the interlocutory appeals were now mere academic exercise.
The appeals were against the Court of Appeal’s interlocutory rulings granting leave to Jegede, Makarfi and Obi to appeal the June 29 judgment and October 14, 2016 ruling by Justice Abang.
The court ordered Ibrahim and others, who were not comfortable with the judgments given by the Court of Appeal on November 23, to appeal the final judgment and include the issues contained in the interlocutory appeals..
The rulings by the apex court were given after lawyers to the appellants withdrew some of the interlocutory appeals.
PDP’s Lawyer Pauls Erokoro (SAN), withdrew the appeals marked: SC/953/2016 and SC/954/2016. Although Erokoro later urged the court to stand down hearing in his other two appeals – SC/916/2016 and SC/918/3016 – the court struck the appeals out and ordered him to add the issue to the appeal he intend to file against the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on November 23.
The lawyer to the Southwest PDP state excos installed by the Sheriff factional leadership, Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN), withdrew six appeals, but the court struck out two others.
The court refused Nwafor’s attempt to argue the other two appeals, but struck them out.
In striking out the interlocutory appeals, Justice Onnoghen said: “In view of the ruling of this court on November 22, 2016 (directing the Court of Appeal to deliver its withheld decisions), and the judgment of the lower court delivered on November 23, 2016, these appeals, being interlocutory, have been overtaken by events.
“The appellants should exercise their rights to appeal in appealing the substantive judgment and the interlocutory decisions, should they feel so. The interlocutory appeals are hereby struck out.”