From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The controversy over who the authentic governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State is continued yesterday with a motion asking the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of its President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to constitute a fresh panel to hear appeals relating to the dispute.
The motion was filed yesterday by Biyi Poroye, a member of the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction.
The petitioners prayed the court to disband the panel comprising of Justices Ibrahim Salauwa, Ignatius Igwe Aguba, and George Mbaba, arguing that the panel was set up in breach of the applicant’s right to fair hearing.
They equally prayed the court to order the return of the case files relating to the appeals and the application for leave to appeal as an interested party (against the decision of the Federal High Court of 14th October 2016 in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/395/2016) – filed by Eyitayo Jegede (factional PDP candidate in Ondo) “to the Registry of the Court of Appeal to take its normal course and turn in the docket of the court.”
The affected appeals are: CA/A/551/2016 filed by Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi against Biyi Poroye and 10 others and CA/A/551A/2016 filed by Clement Faboyede and another against 10 others; CA/A551B/2016 filed by the PDP against Biyi Poroye and 9 others and CA/A/551C/2016 filed by Eyitayo Jegede against Biyi Poroye and 10 others
They argued that not only did the President of the Court of Appeal act without hearing from them, the case, being a pre-election matter did not warrant any urgency to require the constitution of a special panel.
They added that those who filed the appeals against the June 29 and October 14, 2016 decisions of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja were not parties in the cases leading to the decisions.
The applicants also argued that no orders were made against any of them (those behind the new appeals) and that they (the applicants), who were plaintiffs in the suits, were not informed when the President of the Court of Appeal acted solely on the request by the appellants to constitute the panel on the grounds of urgency.
They have also filed a motion before the Supreme Court seeking a stay of all proceedings before the Court of Appeal in relation to the appeals pending the determination of the two appeals they filed on October 31, which have entered and given number: SC/914/2016 and SC/915/2016.
The motion filed by two members of the party, Benson Akingboye and Ehiozuwa Agbonayiwa particularly seeks a stay of  “all further proceedings and further hearing in CA/ABJ/402A/2016 filed on behalf of the PDP by a lawyer engaged by the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the party’s leadership.
They argued that it was wrong to allow the Court of Appeal to proceed with the appeals when they have valid appeals before the Supreme Court, which challenged the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal. “As the first and second respondents in the lower court, they (Akingboye and Agbonayiwa) challenged by way of preliminary objection the validity of the appeal which originated the appeal at the court below. “Apart from the said objection, there arose in the court below, the issue of representation for the PDP as two counsels laid conflicting claims to being the counsel authorized by the said party to act for it in this appeal.
“Neither the said preliminary objections of the applicants herein nor the said issue of which particular counsel is authorized to represent the PDP was resolved before the court below fixed the substantive appeal for hearing.”
“By fixing the substantive appeal for hearing, the court below thereby postponed the ruling or decision on it until the hearing of the whole appeal or case.
“The interlocutory appeal is capable of disposing of, or terminating, the substantive appeal.
“This application could not be first brought at the court below due to the fact that the appeal had been entered at the Supreme Court when it was filed,” they said.
The appeal at the Supreme Court, filed on October 31, 2016 by Akingboye and Agbonayiwa is against the October 29, 2016 decision by the former panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Jumai Sankey in which it ordered accelerated hearing in the appeals.
They raised four grounds in their notice of appeal, the first being that the Justices of the Court of Appeal erred by their failure to first determine the vital issue of jurisdiction raised in their (the appellants’) preliminary objection that there is no valid notice of appeal filed in the court below.
The appellants faulted the former panel of the Court of Appeal for fixing the substantive Appeal for hearing when the issue of which counsel to represent the PDP (in whose name the appeal was filed) had not been resolved.
They also faulted the Sankey-led panel for granting a relief in the motion for accelerated hearing of the case in the court below, which the motion was defective and devoid of address for service. No date is set for hearing of the appeal filed for the appellant.


We will never wage war against judiciary -PDP

From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that it would not wage war against the judiciary, but would continue to respect the independence of the judicial arm of government.
It said that as a ‘responsible’ political party, it believes that there are men and women of integrity in the judiciary, who always ensure that justice is done on issues brought before them.  In a statement issued yesterday by the party’s national publicity secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the PDP said this clarification had become necessary following a petition written by one Mr. Biyi Poroye against the Appeal Court panel set up to determine appeals against the judgement of an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang on who the authentic candidate of the party in the November 26 Ondo governorship poll is.
The party described the petition as distasteful, noting that in its 16 years as the ruling party and close to two years as an opposition party, it has always demonstrated immense respect for the judiciary, even when it is uncomfortable with court judgements.
The statement reads in part: “The PDP seeks to completely dissociate itself from the petition written by one Mr. Biyi Poroye against the Justice Jummai Sankey-led Appeal Panel set up to determine appeals against the Judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court.
“ We find the petition to be distasteful, offensive, indecent and completely out of keeping with the principles, ideology and ethos of our party to make such unsubstantiated allegations against members of an institution as important as the judiciary.
“Over the course of our 16 years in power and in our almost 2 years out of power, our party, the PDP, has demonstrated respect and reverence for the judiciary. In this time, we have ensured that we never besmirched the integrity and reputation of the judiciary.”
“It is important to stress that neither the writer of the petition nor his sponsors are members of our party. They are a group of people with powerful backers within and outside government who are determined to bend all institutions of democracy to suit their whims; and while failing, they are willing to resort to destructive tactics against such institutions. Even our party is a victim of their destructive tendencies.”


Buhari’s cabinet lacks competence –Fasehun

By Chinelo Obogo

National chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, has called for the immediate sack of ministers that make up the national economic team. In this interview, he also speaks on the need for the legislature to raise bills that would address the issue of restructuring.

The issue of restructuring has been on the front burner for a while; would you say that it has become a mere slogan? And if you are an advocate for restructuring, what are the indices that should be put in place?
Many people, including me, have clamoured for restructuring. But recently, I have dismissed any prospects of restructuring, because the more we agitate, the less we achieve through such agitation. What did we want the National Conference that we had in 2014 to do? We wanted unity, dearth of ethnicity and the progress of the country, but the more conferences we have had, the more divided we have become. So, maybe what we should do now is to allow the legislature to perform its duty of raising bills that would address these issues. The legislators know what factors to put in place. When we had three regions in the past, we had a conference then, but the country became more divided. We later on had 12 states, but the division and disunity persisted. We have had so many conferences in the past which we thought would improve on what we have on ground, but we are more divided than ever, despite all the agitations on restructuring.
The way forward is for the legislature to tackle restructuring that would bring unity and promote democracy; maybe that is when we would do better.

Critics have said that the war against corruption has been one sided and biased. How should it be done?
The President should be seen to be nationalistic in every way, especially in his appointments. In a situation where nobody is right unless he is in the president’s political group, is not fair enough. He came in and said he was going to be fair to all and that he was going to be the president of the whole nation; so let him behave true to the promise he made. Otherwise, he would not have good teams to project the image of the country. Take the economy for instance. Do we not have economic giants that can pull the economy out of recession? Of course, we do. We have people like Okonjo-Iweala , Utomi, Soludo etc. Then why is he not making use of them? Is it because they do not belong to the same political group as he? I would advise him to stop partisanship and employ people that would bring us out of the doldrums.

His wife has said that most of the people who he appointed are unknown to him? Would it then be expedient for a politician to bring in people from the opposition?
Any good democratic government must appreciate the contribution of the opposition. You must listen to the voice of the opposition because they are like spectators in a football match, who because they are on the sidelines, can see the mistakes of the football match. He should listen to them because they are citizens of this country. The more you listen to the opposition, the more buoyant your administration would be. For instance, Pat Utomi wrote the economic pathway for All Progressives Congress (APC), but when the president constituted his cabinet, he was left out. If Oknonjo-Iweala was not good, why would the World bank hire her?

She was in the previous administration, and if it had performed well, would it have been voted out?
That is why we are in a democracy. Nigerians wanted a change, and the change came, but we are not enjoying the change. Everybody is hungry and angry. A lady came to me complaining to me saying that she did not have N172, 000 to pay the school fees of her two-year-old daughter. How much do we expect that child to pay in school when she is 10 years old?

Is it not worrisome that the previous administration which you supported should be linked to so much sleaze?
Which government in this country has not had any accusation of corruption? When the President was Head of State, why was he sentencing people to 100 years in prison? Was it not because of corruption?  If there was corruption then, and there is still corruption now, it is because Nigerians have not learned from their history.

What should Nigerians learn?
We have not learned to elect good leaders. In a population of 170 million, there must be good people, so why have we left out the good ones. There must be good people, and if Nigerians cannot elect good people, then there is a problem
If you were given the chance, what steps would you advise the government to take to pull the country out of recession?
I would ask the President to sack his present cabinet and constitute another one because those in his cabinet are very incompetent. He should change them and put very relevant and competent people. In what way have they shown competence when the N500 is now equal to a dollar? If the ministers are proffering solutions to the president, but he is not listening, then they should report him to the nation; let them speak up. The President is not a divine person who cannot be criticized. That he is being criticized does not mean that he is hated, but people want him to know that he can do better.

Are you in support of the recent arrest of judges?
In a democracy, the Judiciary is the most stable arm of government for obvious reasons. While the two other arms of the government, the Legislature and the Executive, have a ceiling on their tenure, the Judiciary is career-driven and enjoys tenure longevity. Those serving in the Judiciary are apolitical and the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man. This is why it is disheartening, heartrending and troubling that the Judiciary has been placed under this brazen assault and it forebodes danger for the nation’s democracy. Today, it is rather unfortunate that President Buhari represents the worst threat on our nation’s democracy.
These current events have vindicated my stand when I expressed scepticism on the Buhari presidential candidacy in 2015. When, in the build up to the elections, his spin-doctors told the world that General Buhari was a born-again democrat, we warned Nigerians that this leopard cannot change his spots. Buhari has the trappings of an unrepentant bigot and dictator. First he moved against PDP, then he moved against the Legislature, now it is the Judiciary that has been placed under siege and attack.
From time immemorial, General Buhari appears to nurse an intrinsic hatred and distrust for the Judiciary. Nigerians must recall that back in his first coming as Military Head of State in 1983, he suspended the courts and established tribunals headed by military officers to try cases involving politicians.
This despotic creation led to the bastardisation of the process and dispensation of justice by these judicially-unlearned officers, and led to the handing down of tragically laughable verdicts. Lawyers boycotted the tribunals and refused to defend those arraigned under that draconian atmosphere. Nigerians must be wary. Our country is today fast becoming the same banana republic that the Buhari/Idiagbon turned Nigeria into in the 1980s, with such draconian legislations as Decree No. 2 of 1984 (State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree of 1984) and Decree No. 4 of 1984 (Public Officers Protection Against False Accusation Decree).

How would you rate his anti corruption war?
In as much as we recognise the harm that corruption has inflicted on our development, and we subscribe to the current war against corruption, however, in battling corruption, relevant institutions and agencies must follow due process and the Rule of Law. The invasion of the homes of the Judges is a gross and blatant violation of Rule of Law, the constitution and commonsense. It is a resort to self-help that all civilized societies frown at.
The DSS attack on the victims in the name of an anti-corruption war appears like a deliberate strategy to cow and make the Judiciary and judicial officers run under their beds. In this evil atmosphere, which Judge will dare to rule against the government? Meanwhile, much of the time, shoddy half-baked investigation and prosecution carried out by government security agents and counsels are majorly to blame for Judges’ having insufficient evidence to base convictions on.
Invasion of Judges’ homes is the mother of all corruption. Buhari is using corruption to fight corruption.
Recently, the government flew a kite to ask the Legislature to grant the President emergency powers. God forbid, that will be total dictatorship of the Idi Amin type. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The DSS has failed in its statutory duty, which is to secure the country against security threats. And at a time when the insurgencies, shootings, bombings and kidnappings ravaging Nigeria are being blamed on the failure of intelligence, it is unbelievable that the DSS has the luxury of ease to break into people’s homes and peddle falsehood and propaganda against its victims.

Was this the change Nigerians voted for: To shut up all opposition, including the Judiciary that is the hope of the common man? If the Judiciary can be attacked and silenced the same way as the elite and legislators, what will be the fate of the commoner in Nigeria?
It is unthinkable that some voices are supporting this brash display of impunity. It makes us lament the passing of Gani Fawehinimi, Alao-Aka Bashorun and Tunji Braithwaite.
In the wisdom of our nation’s Constitution makers, the Constitution does not make the Executive the watchdog of the Judiciary. That responsibility, in Section 21 belongs to the National Judicial Council, mandated to make recommendations to the President and respective governors for the appointment, discipline and dismissal of Judges.
The Nigerian Constitution, which Buhari swore to uphold in Section 17 guarantees “The independence, impartiality and integrity of courts of law,” and for the reason of this judicial independence and separation of powers, Section 81(3) directs that, “Any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of the courts established for the Federation and the State.”