By Esther Eziashi:
Amidst criticisms of the decision of the Appeal Court Panel to deliver its verdict on the election petition before it in Sokoto, the Supreme Court yesterday stopped the panel from delivering judgment in the governorship re-run poll appeal scheduled for today.
The Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) candidate in the 2007 governorship elections, Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi, is challenging the eligibility of Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to participate in the re-run election.
The Supreme Court panel presided over by Justice Dahiru Musdapher yesterday ordered the court to stay proceedings in the matter pending the determination of a motion before it.
Justice Musdapher gave the ruling after the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu took a decision not to be part of the panel based on his involvement in the issue. Unconfirmed reports said the Katsina-Alu and the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami are at loggerheads over the case.
In their petitions to the CJN, Governor Wamakko and PDP are alleging that Justices of the Court of Appeal sitting on the Appeal have personal interest in the matter.
Following this, the CJN who is also chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) wrote a letter directing the Justices to stay action in the matter.
But the Appeal Court justices, in defiance of the CJN directive, fixed today for ruling on the matter.
Justice Musdapher yesterday informed the court that the motion filed by Wammako’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), will not be taken because he had personally intervened in the row between Justices Katsina-Alu and Salami.
In the said motion, Wammako is challenging a decision of the apex court which struck out a Notice of Appeal filed by Dingyadi.
Dingyadi had challenged the refusal of the Court of Appeal, Abuja to allow it amend his Notice of Appeal.
Since he was given an opportunity to raise the same issue at the Election Peti-tion Appeal Tribunal, he applied to discontinue with the appeal, which was granted by the Supreme Court.
This, however, did not go down well with Wamakko and PDP who filed a motion challenging the decision.
Justice Musdapher who insisted that the motion will not be taken yesterday however harped on the need to preserve the subject of the litigation.
Earlier, Olanipekun had urged the court to decide in one way or the other because judgment had been slated for today.
According to him, failure to act might foist a situation of hopelessness, haplessness on the nation.
Replying, counsel to Dingyadi, Chief Rickey Tarfa (SAN) urged the court to discountenance Olanipekun’s submission because the judgment that was to be delivered cannot be appealed at the Supreme Court, so it is entirely a matter that rests squarely with the Appeal Court.
Citing a ruling delivered in Inakoju Vs Adeleke by Justice Katsina-Alu as reported in 2006, 18 Nigeria Weekly Law Report (NWLR) Part 1012, Tarfa argued that it had been decided that the Supreme Court will not grant a stay of order in election matters.
After ding-dong between counsel in the matter and Justice Francis Ogbuagwu, who was giving direction, the panel decided to adjourn the matter but emphasised on the need to preserve the res.
It would be recalled that Dingyadi had gone to a Federal High Court, Abuja to challenge the participation of Wamakko in the re-run election after the Election Petition Appeal had nullified his election.
The trial court however declined jurisdiction in the matter.
Dissatisfied, Dingyadi appealed to the Court of Appeal, Sokoto.
While the appeal was pending, the appellant filed an application for leave to raise fresh issues in which it stated that the Federal High Court, Abuja had jurisdiction to enforce the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Kaduna.
The appellate court refused to grant the leave to raise fresh issue on the grounds that an appeal is a continuation of hearing and not an invention of a new cause of action.
On December 14, 2009, the appellants went to the Supreme Court with a prayer that it should invoke Section 22 of its Act to determine the substantive suit on its merit.
It however, applied for discontinuance which was granted by the Supreme Court hence the new motion challenging the decision.
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