Posted by By AKEEB ALARAPE and GBENGA ABEGUNRIN, Ibadan on
The camp of the erstwhile Governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasidi Ladoja, was thrown into another mourning mood Wednesday, as the hope of his supporters to see him back in office soon, got dashed by the decision of the Court of Appeal...
…As appeal court stays proceedings
The camp of the erstwhile Governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasidi Ladoja, was thrown into another mourning mood Wednesday, as the hope of his supporters to see him back in office soon, got dashed by the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, to stay further proceedings in the legal battle challenging the controversial impeachment of Ladoja on January 12, this year, by 18 out of the 32 members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, pending the hearing of two motions filed at the Supreme Court.
In a unanimous ruling that lasted for about 15 minutes, President of the Appeal Court, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, supported by four other justices of the Appeal Court, granted the application for a stay of proceedings filed by counsel to the pro-Adedibu lawmakers, Messrs Christopher O. Ayanlaja and Lateef Fagbemi (SANs).
"We are not unaware of the urgency of the matter but we have to wait for the outcome of the motion before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In the light of this, the application is accepted and accordingly granted. The proceedings is hereby stayed," Justice Abdullahi ruled.
Supporting the ruling were Justice John Afolabi Fabiyi, Justice Aminat Augie, Justice M.L. Garba and Justice G. I. Udom-Asogwu.
The Appeal Court had earlier fixed June 14, 15 and 16 for the hearing and determination of the appeal filed by former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke and his deputy, Mr Dauda Titilola against the ruling of Justice John O. Ige that the court has no jurisdiction to intervene in the impeachment process.
But at the sitting of the court, Wednesday, counsel to the 18 lawmakers that spearheaded Ladoja’s removal from office, Messrs Christopher O. Ayanlaja and Lateef Fagbemi (SANs), announced to the court that two appeals have been filed at the Supreme Court against two earlier rulings of the appellate court, which necessitated the stay of proceedings application.
"This application is on undisputed fact in respect that there were two rulings of this court and the rulings are the subjects of the appeal. The appeal against the two rulings has been entered in the Supreme Court and assigned the Supreme Court numbers," Fagbemi stated.
While pointing out that the matter fell within ‘a narrow compass’, Fagbemi warned that going against the application for a stay of proceedings would be tantamount to contempt of the court, therefore calling for an adjournment of the case.
"I submit with respect sir that the appropriate order to make in the circumstance of this case, no matter how unpalatable, the consequence may be to the appellant, is to adjourn this matter pending the determination of the application for a stay of proceedings in the Supreme Court.
"This is a practice that has been sanctioned by the higher court in the land. This is a matter that admits no sentiment or emotion because the court itself is devoid of sentiment or emotion. In view of this, I urge your Lordships to stay further proceedings in the appeal until the two motions are determined by the Supreme Court", Fagbemi added.
But in his counter-argument, Chief Wole Olanipekun and Mallam Yusuf Ali, (SANs) representing the appellants, including the impeached governor, urged the court to quashed the application, describing it as a gross abuse of court process and one aimed at stifling the hearing of the substantive case.
Olanipekun particularly picked hole in the stay of proceeding application as he explained that it had earlier been filed and withdrawn before the defendants now re-filed it 24 hours to the sitting of the court.
Also, the senior advocate pointed out that filing two applications at both the Appeal and Supreme Courts on the same matter constituted a gross abuse of court process.
"They brought an application on their own, they withdrew it. They wrote a letter that the court has no jurisdiction. On their own, they went to the Supreme Court, saying that the matter has been slated for hearing today. Yesterday, they slotted in another application in order to delay the hearing of this matter. We can’t but be annoyed", Olanipekun stated.
He dismissed the authorities cited by Fagbemi to argue his case, pointing out that the case at hand was of ‘manifest public interest’ while the subject matter has a time limit as it expires by May 2007.
In his own submission, Yusuf Ali, (SAN) also pointed out that the dispute in the matter was tangible ‘but perishable’, urging the court not only to strike out the application, but to dismiss it.
After about two hours of recess, the five justices delivered their ruling, which sent the Ladoja’s legal team brooding and few supporters of the former governor dragging their feet out of the courtroom with their heads dropped.
The court sitting was characterised by strict security surveillance as all the roads leading to the premises of the Court of Appeal were blocked by stern-looking anti-riot policemen.
Also, only journalists and judicial workers were allowed into the courtroom as well as few aides of both Ladoja and Adedibu, who were frisked to their pants.
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