The Ali Modu Sherif-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party has expressed regret on the petition it wrote against the Justice Ibrahim Saulawa-led panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja in the heat of the legal battle for the party’s ticket for the Ondo State governorship election held in November, 2016.
The PDP faction stated in a letter, dated January 31, 2017, and addressed to the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, that it took the decision to withdraw the petition after “a more sober reflection.”
The letter, titled, ‘Letter of withdrawal of petition dated November 17, 2016,’ was signed by two officials of the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP — the National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, and the acting National Legal Adviser, Mr. Bashir Maidugu.
The letter read in part, “With utmost humility and greatest respect to Your Lordship, we write in respect of our earlier petition, dated November 17, 2016, in which we urged Your Lordship to direct the honourable President of the Court of Appeal to instruct the Justice Ibrahim Saulawa-led panel of Justices to stop all further proceedings in respect of appeal with number CA/A/551/2016 wherein judgment had been delivered.
“Upon a more sober reflection, we humbly apply to withdraw the said petition against the Justices and regret any inconvenience same may have occasioned on all affected parties.
“Accept our highest regards always.”
The Justice Saulawa panel had, in its judgment, delivered on November 23, 2016, nullified an earlier verdict of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to recognise Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, belonging to the Sheriff faction, as the authentic governorship candidate of the PDP in Ondo State.
The Court of Appeal, in its judgment, retrieved the ticket from Ibrahim and returned it to Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, who belonged to the rival Ahmed Makarfi-led faction.
Jegede eventually contested as the PDP candidate in the governorship election in Ondo State on November 26, 2016, a few days after obtaining the Court of Appeal judgment, but lost to the All Progressives Congress candidate, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
Prior to the judgment, the Sheriff faction had, in a petition, dated November 17, 2016, sent to Justice Onnoghen, accused the Justice Saulawa panel of bias in the handling of the PDP cases.
The faction urged the acting CJN to compel the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to disband the three-man appeal panel for allegedly violating the principle of court hierarchy by continuing to conduct proceedings in the PDP cases despite that the motions for stay of proceedings were pending before the Supreme Court.
Justice Saulawa, on Thursday, acknowledged the withdrawal of the petition when motions by some parties, seeking leave to appeal against the November 23, 2016, judgment came up for hearing.
In response, the new counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), representing nine state officials of the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP in the South-West zone, said he took the decision compelling his clients to withdraw the petition after he was briefed to take up the case.
The nine officials, who filed a motion to seek leave to appeal against the appeal court’s judgment “on the grounds of mixed law and facts,” are led by Mr. Biyi Poroye.
When Olujinmi moved the motion on Thursday, there was no objection from the respondents’ lawyers, comprising the counsel, representing Makarfi and Ben Obi (secretary to the Makarfi faction), Mrs. Aisha Aliyu; INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Nelson Anih, and PDP’s counsel, Mr. Olusola Dare.
The appeal court granted the application in a short ruling after the applicants’ lawyer moved it on Thursday.
The court also granted similar applications by the PDP and the Secretary to the Zonal Executive Committee of the Sheriff faction in the South-West zone, Chief Pegba Otemolu.
Meanwhile, there was an indication on Thursday that the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal would deliver its judgment on the leadership tussle between the Makarfi and Sheriff factions on February 17.