The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave order restoring jurisdiction to the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to determine all appeals arising from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), leadership dispute.
Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, led three other justices of the court to arrive at the decision.
The Appeal Court had on Oct. 18, suspended hearings into the various applications pending the decision of the apex court.
The Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the party had approached the apex court following the decision of the court of appeal to grant leave to Ahmed Makarfi faction to appeal against the decision of the Federal High Court.
The appellant had also challenged the decision of the court of appeal to allow Eyitayo Jegede to appeal against his substitution as PDP candidate for the forthcoming Ondo governorship election.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), recalls that on June 29, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court upheld Sheriff as the Acting National Chairman of the party.
The decision bestowed the Sheriff’s faction of the PDP the right to conduct governorship primary of the party for the Nov. 26 Ondo State governorship election.
The appellate court had on Nov.11 granted the trio (Jegede, Makarfi and Obi), the leave to appeal against those decisions.
However, the Sheriff faction had immediately challenged the two rulings at the Supreme Court.
Mr Beloulisa Nwofor (SAN), counsel to Mr Biyi Poroye, Ondo state Chairman of PDP, contended that the panel must stay proceedings pending the determinations of those interlocutory appeals.
Nwofor had argued that the court was stripped of its jurisdiction the moment the appeals were entered at the apex court.
Also, Mr Raphael Oluyede, counsel to the Sheriff-PDP, aligned himself with Nwofor’s objections.
Oluyede had added that it was trite in law to stay action once an appeal was entered against the decision of a lower court.
The panel was set to deliver judgment on the party’s governorship candidate crisis before a notice of a motion from the apex court was served on it.
Onnoghen held that the motion for stay having been withdrawn by Nwofor, the court of appeal’s jurisdiction had been fully restored.
“The lower court is enjoined to continue with the proceedings as the apex court prepares the ground to hear substantive appeals brought before it.
“The apex court views with dismay the audacity of the counsel to the applicants who had allowed the three justices of the court of appeal handling the appeals to be joined as parties.
“The law is trite on this, judges and justices of courts are immune from actions that question them while performing their functions as judicial officers’’, he said.
Onnoghen said: “In view of the need to bring an end to litigation, the parties are ordered to go back to the lower court for the determination of the proceedings’’.
“The applicants are hereby ordered to pay the sum of N250, 000 as fine to the three respondents as penalty for the withdrawal of the motion.
“Furthermore, the applicants are equally ordered to pay the sum of N500, 000 as cost of processes to the respondents.
“Nwofor, counsel to the first to the ninth applicants is ordered to personally pay N1 million each to the three justices of the lower court to have allowed this motion brought against them’’, he held.
Earlier, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to the respondents had argued that it was a wrong move taken by the applicants, adding that their actions denigrated judiciary.
Olanipekun submitted that the proceedings at the court of appeal were done according to law, adding that the panel had jurisdiction when it heard his client’s appeal.
“My Lords, it is not all situations that the lower court should stay proceedings following entry of a stay motion at a superior court.
“This is a pre-election matter and time is of the essence, therefore, I urge the court to dismiss this interlocutory motion and allow the court of appeal to complete its work,’’ he said.
Onnoghen adjourned the hearing of the substantive appeals until Nov. 24.