The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Wednesday witnessed a short drama as a war of words ensued between the panel of three judges, led by Ibrahim Salauwa, and Beluolisah Nwofor, counsel to Biyi Poroye, factional chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ondo State.
The court was hearing a suit in the intra-party fight for the governorship ticket of the PDP in the state.
The drama started when Mr. Nwofor asked the court to stay proceedings, in view of information that the Supreme Court had assumed jurisdiction over all appeals in respect of the November 26 election.
The Supreme Court, in a letter dated November 14 and signed by the Head/Receiving Unit, Mohammad Ndayako, confirmed that all appeals in respect of the Ondo State PDP matters were before it.
The judges were however irked by the tone of Mr. Nwofor in making his submissions, prompting the leader of the panel to shout on him to sit down.
“Respect is mutual, I was given two minutes and it has not expired so I can’t sit down” an infuriated Mr. Nwofor responded. “Does the bench have the right to shout at the bar?”
A short rowdy session ensued, until the judges called a short break.
When the proceedings resumed, the court struck out an application by Jimoh Ibrahim, the flag bearer of the PDP under the Ali Modu Sheriff faction, who had asked to be joined in an appeal filed by his rival to the PDP ticket, Eyitayo Jegede of the Ahmed Markarfi faction.
The court at the last sitting had also thrown out an application by Mr. Ibrahim.
The latest application was thrown out, however, when his counsel, Jadegoke Badejo, told the court he had decided to withdraw from the matter, which he lamented had turned rowdy.
Mr. Badejo asked for an adjournment to enable him return the case file to his client in view of his withdrawal.
Counsel to Mr. Jegede, Wole Olanipekun, objected to Mr. Badejo’s application for adjournment, saying Mr. Badejo’s withdrawal needed not force an adjournment.
“The Senior counsel withdrew for a party on record and not party seeking to be joined. A party who is not on record cannot hold the court to ransom on an application”, Mr. Olanipekun submitted.
However, Mr. Nwofor, counsel to Mr. Poroye argued that it was not Mr. Badejo who had brought the application, but Mr. Ibrahim. He said Mr. Ibrahim should therefore be allowed to brief another counsel.
The court panel subsequently struck out Mr. Badejo’s application for adjournment.
Then Mr. Nwofor moved his application again urging the court to hands off the matters, since the motion to stay proceedings had been filed before the Supreme Court. He said the Court of Appeal was bound by judicial precedents to allow the apex court hear the matter.
But Mr. Olanipekun objected to the application. He said that it was lacking in merit.
“We are opposing the application because it falls flat on its own without an affidavit”, he said. “Does the Court of Appeal have the power to remove an appeal from the cause list and should the court now hands off it?”
Mr. Nwofor responded that the court could not entertain the matter until the motion was taken by the Supreme Court.
Justice Saulawa adjourned ruling on Mr. Nwofor’s application to a date to be communicated to the parties.
Mr. Ibrahim is a respondent in various applications brought before the Appeal Court by Mr. Jegede.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which originally listed Mr. Jegede as the PDP candidate, had replaced him with Mr. Ibrahim based on an October 14 judgement delivered by Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Following his substitution, Mr. Jegede approached the appeal court seeking to upturn the ruling of the Federal High Court and to force INEC to restore him as the PDP candidate.