Jane Okafor, Abuja
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has reserved judgment for next Thursday, 1st December, 2022 in case instituted by Ogun state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship hopeful, Otunba Jimi Adebisi Lawal (JAL), against PDP and Hon. Ladi Adebutu.
This followed last Monday’s order of the Supreme Court directing that the case be remitted to the Federal High Court for expeditious hearing.
A former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Kanu Agabi (SAN) led Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Essien Andrew (SAN) for Lawal, the plaintiff.
Chris Uche (SAN) led other lawyers for the defendants, PDP and Adebutu.
When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday morning, both leading counsel identified and adopted their processes.
Consequently, the trial judge, Honourable Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo, fixed judgment for December 1, 2022.
Recall that the apex court in a leading judgment delivered by Honourable Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, in the appeal filed by PDP and Adebutu, held that the Federal High Court (as per the Honourable Justice Taiwo Taiwo now retired) was wrong in declining jurisdiction in the matter filed by Lawal.
The apex court agreed with the Court of Appeal in Abuja that the high court has jurisdiction under Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution and section 84 (14) of the Electoral Act 2022 to hear the matter of Lawal on its merit.
The Supreme Court therefore ordered that the case be remitted to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja for determination by another judge other than Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who refused to entertain the suit.
Justice Saulawa, in a unanimous judgment of a five-man panel of Justices of the Apex Court, ordered that the high court must speedily hear the case of Lawal against Oladipupo Adebutu and PDP within time allowed by law.
Lawal, who contested the May 25 governorship primary election of PDP had challenged the emergence of Oladipupo Adebutu alleging that unlawful delegates list was used by PDP to conduct the election.
Among others, Lawal had prayed that the purported primary election of May 25 be cancelled and another one be conducted with the authentic adhoc delegates.
However, Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in his judgment delivered on July 29 declined to hear the suit of Jimi Lawal on merit on the grounds that the primary election was a domestic affair of any political party and dismissed the suit.
Not satisfied, Lawal approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja with a prayer that the decision of the high court be voided and set aside on the ground of miscarriage of justice.
A three-man panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal in their judgment delivered on September 30 agreed with Jimi Lawal, set aside judgment of the high court and ordered that the suit be heard on its merit..
The PDP, not satisfied with the Court of Appeal decision approached the Supreme Court on October 14 praying that the judgment of the Court of Appeal be rejected and that of the Federal High Court be upheld to the effect that the conduct of the primary election is its domestic affair.
But Justice Saulawa disagreed with PDP and Adebutu, holding that by virtue of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 84 of the Electoral Act, 2022, the Federal High Court has power to hear Lawal’s case.
The apex court proceeded with an order to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the case to another judge for retrial on its merit.