The Supreme Court on Monday assured parties of its prompt hearing of the appeal filed by Senator Stephen Adi Odey in relation to the dispute over the actual candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last by-election in Cross River North Senatorial District of Cross River State.
At the mention of the appeal, marked: SC/CV/9/2021 on Monday, the appellant’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) told the court that the appeal is a pre-election one and that parties have been served.
Lawyers to the first and second respondents (John Alaga and Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe) Samuel Ologunorisa (SAN) and Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) however, said they have filed applications, challenging the competence of the appeal.
Lawyer to the third respondent (the Independent National Electoral Commission – INEC), Agada Elachi said he was not challenging the competence of the appeal.
On enquiry by the court, Ologunorisa and Adedipe said they did not accompany their applications with written addresses, but said they were willing to file should the court so direct.
Ruling, Justice Musa Datijo Mohammad, who headed the court’s five-man panel, granted the applicants two days to file written addresses; two days to the appellant to respond and one day for the applicants to reply, should there be a need for any.
On being told by Olanipekun that the appeal would expire on February 26 this year, Justice Muhammad assured that all the parties would be accommodated and that, if necessary, the court would hear the objections along with the substantive appeal.
He then adjourned till February 15 for a hearing.
Odey is praying the Supreme Court to, among others, set aside an aspect of the judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal, Abuja on December 17, 2020, directing INEC to recognise Jarigbe as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the by-election.
Odey stated that his party, the PDP conducted its primary election on September 5, 2020, preparatory to the December 5, 2020 by-election.
He added that he won, with 450 votes, while Jarigbe scored 90 votes, subsequent upon Jarigbe sued at the Federal High Court, Port-Harcourt to challenge the outcome of the primary election.
He said the suit by Jarigbe, marked: FHC/PHC/CS/137/200 was later transferred to the Calabar division of the Federal High Court and renumbered: FHC/CA/CS/105/2020.
Odey added that while Jarigbe’s case was pending, he also sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the suit marked: FHC/CA/CS/87/2020 for delaying to publish his name as the PDP’s candidate, weeks after the party submitted his name to it (INEC) as the winner of the primary.
He stated that the Federal High Court, Calabar delivered its judgments in both cases on December 3, 2020 affirming him as the authentic PDP candidate, while the court struck out Jarigbe’s case for want of jurisdiction.
Odey said the Federal High Court proceeded to make an order of perpetual injunction, restraining INEC from interfering with his candidacy.
He said based on the court’s decision, he contested the by-election of December 5, 2020, as the candidate of the PDP and was declared the winner by INEC, following which he was sworn in on December 16, 2020, at the Senate as the Senator representing Cross River North Senatorial District.
Odey said he was shocked to learn the next day (December 17, 2020) that the Court of Appeal, Abuja upheld an order made by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja directing INEC to accept Jarigbe as the candidate of the PDP for the same election he won and on which basis he was inaugurated as a Senator.
He stated that unknown to him, while they were before the Federal High Court, Calabar, in respect of the suit by Jarigbe, challenging the outcome of the primary election, an ally of Jarigbe, John Alaga filed a suit before the High Court of FCT on October 5, 2020, claiming that Jarigbe won the primary, but that he should be disqualified for submitting forged certificates to INEC.
In a judgment on November 14, 2020, Justice Bintu Mohammed of the High Court of the FCT, dismissed the suit by Alaga, marked: CV/77/2020, on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to establish his case.
Odey stated that rather than stop at just dismissing the suit, Justice Mohammed proceeded to make consequential orders, including that directing INEC to recognise Jarigbe as the candidate of the PDP, a decision Alaga appealed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
He stated that the Court of Appeal, in its judgment in the appeal by Alaga delivered on December 17, 2020, agreed with the High Court that the suit was without merit, but failed to set aside the consequential orders made by the trial court without jurisdiction.
In his appeal, Odey further faulted the Court of Appeal for refusing to set aside the consequential orders, despite finding that the PDP, the party, whose candidate’s fate was being determined, was not made a party at the High Court and that the suit, being a pre-election matter, was filed by Alaga after the 14 days allowed.
Odey added that the Court of Appeal, in its December 17, 2020 judgment, “refused to set aside the consequential orders made by the trial court, despite finding that the case was a crass abuse of judicial process and that the court has no jurisdiction to entertain same.
“It is the failure to set aside the consequential orders that is the central and sole focus of this appeal,” he said.