• Petition Accuses Judges Of Taking N350m Bribe
• PDP Denies As State Chairmen Declare Support For Jegede
The three-member panel of justices of the Court of Appeal yesterday withdrew from all appeals relating to the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State. Their action was due to a petition accusing them of compromising their position.
In the petition by a factional chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State, Biyi Poroye, which was addressed to the President, Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, he alleged that Governor Olusegun Mimiko had boasted in the public that he and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State had settled the judges with N350 million.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed as well as members of the panel were copied the petition. Poroye, who swore to an affidavit to buttress his allegation, said he believed that the judges had been compromised because the presiding Justice, Jumai Hannatu Sankey, was prone to corruption.
The petitioner further alleged that Justice Sankey had been sick for the past five years and as such, “became very poor and prone to corruption.”
Poroye further alleged in the petition that Sankey was transferred from Yola where Eyitayo Jegede, the appellant, was practising law for the past 15 years and that when the Justice arrived in Akure Division, Governor Mimiko boasted that he catered for her to the tune of N100 million.
But the PDP in Ondo State said it is “neither distracted nor would succumb to the time-worn tactics of judicial ambush” as a result of the withdrawal of the Appeal Panel of the Court of Appeal handling its case on the removal of its candidate, Jegede by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The party also called for immediate arrest of the factional PDP Chairman, Mr. Biyi Poroye, who made allegations against the panel members, insisting that he must be made to substantiate his claims.
In the circumstances, the petitioner demanded the disbandment of the panel on the ground that his side would not get justice from it.The PDP factional chairman also faulted the composition of a special panel to hear a pre-election matter, stressing that there was no reason for the President of the Court of Appeal to have done so since the appeal was not time-bound.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, Justice Sankey drew the attention of lawyers to the petition and demanded to know whether the panel could still go ahead with the hearing of the case despite the strongly worded petition and supported affidavit of evidence.
In his reaction, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who stood for Jegede said he was taken aback by the development and that he was not copied.
Counsel to the petitioner, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) said he was speechless because he had no knowledge of the petition and was not consulted by his client before writing it.
Justice Sankey did not take the issue lightly. She said: “Conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it. Why did he run out of court when he has the audacity to append his signature on the shameless petition and the affidavit.
“It is said that 99 days is for the thief, only one day is for the owner. It is painful that the petitioner used my ailment predicament to insult me, to allege that I am a poor judge, that I was sick for five years and prone to corruption.
“I am ready to carry my illness on my shoulder, but it is unfair for the petitioner to make my sickness an issue in his petition.”In her ruling, Justice Sankey said: “Ordinarily, since no fact had been put forward before the court to establish a case of likelihood of bias and since lawyers in this matter have all denied knowledge of the petition, we would have ignored the petition.
“But it is a settled law that when a case of likelihood of bias has been raised in a petition, it has to be looked into, even if the petition is frivolous.
“We consider it necessary to disqualify ourselves from all petitions in respect of Ondo PDP governorship matters. “We hereby step down from this matter and the case files are to be returned for re-assignment to another panel,” she said.
The court had fixed yesterday and today for definite hearing of the appeals.Meanwhile, chairmen of the 36 chapters of the PDP, after a meeting with National Caretaker Committee Chairman, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, in Abuja yesterday declared their support to Jegede as the party’s candidate in Ondo State.
A statement issued by the spokesman of the caretaker committee, Dayo Adeyeye, disclosed that the meeting offered opportunity for Makarfi to brief the State chairmen on developments in the party and some decisions taken in recent times.