By Lere Olayinka

The Court of Appeal sitting in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State has described the report of the panel set up by the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate allegations of unethical practices made by former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni against the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami and four others as crucial to the Appeal filed by Oni, seeking an order to set aside the October 15, 2010 judgement of the Election Appeal Tribunal which installed the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi as Governor.

The Court subsequently adjourned the case indefinitely, pending the outcome of the NJC panel headed by President of Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi.

The Appeal Panellists were Justices Stanley Senko Alagoa, Nwale Sylvester Ngwuta, Tijani Abdulai, Uwani Abba Aji and Raphael Chikwe Agbo.

Oni had on Monday, March 14, 2010 filed an Appeal at the new Court of Appeal in Ado-Ekiti seeking an order to set aside the judgement of the Justice Salami-led Election Appeal Tribunal, and a retrial of the case, contending that; “the judgement was a nullity having been predetermined and delivered through a panel which has close affinity with 1st and 2nd Respondents”

The former governor, who attached copies of his petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to the Affidavit and the Affidavit of Senator Umaru Dahiru and Mahmud Yahaya stated that it was uncontroverted that Justice Isa Salami had been a friend of Tinubu and that he (Tinubu) “has unfettered access to influence the President of the Court of Appeal who presided over the Ekiti Tribunal” thus denying him of Fair Hearing.

At the commencement of the matter today, lead counsel to Chief Oni and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Ladi Rotimi Williams (SAN) moved the motion for the setting aside of the October 15, 2010 judgment and reconstitution of a new panel to hear the matter de novo. Lead counsel to the respondents, Chief Anthony Adeniyi reacted to the application intimating the court that the respondents had filed preliminary objections and counter affidavits. He said that they were prepared to go on with the case.

Chief Ladi Williams however urged the court to order the counsel to present written addresses on the matter, to which the presiding justice asked; “Does our rules support that?” Williams replied that; “Your Lordships have the discretionary powers. The presiding justice however asked from Chief Williams that; “Don't you think as the NJC is looking into this matter, going by the affidavit in support of your prayers, we should wait for the NJC report?”

Williams responded, saying; “NJC is an administrative organ” and the presiding Justice replied; “Don't you think this should wait? Even if we use our discretionary power, don't you think this will take some time during which the NJC may have submitted its report?”

However, Oni's counsel urged the court to grant a short adjournment to reply to the preliminary objections raised by the respondents as according to him, they were served the processes on Monday and we would have to raise some constitutional issues.”

Saying that there was no need to go into the substance of the matter, the presiding justice said that there were weighty allegations against the justices and we do not have investigative powers.

Aligning with the thinking of the honourable justices, Chief Williams agreed to a sine die adjournment, noting that; “We cannot predict what the NJC will do. Is it not possible to order written addresses?”

The presiding justice however retorted; “No, until we decide to hear the motion, we have not yet decided to take the motion. Until then, we cannot order any written address. From what we have all said, we have to adjourn sine die. You will be served with hearing notices when we are ready.”

Counsel to the respondent reacted, saying; “I do not have objection to this but I will object to the adjournment sine die. The motion on notice is premature and if we go by the prayers in the exhibits... The presiding justice cut him short; saying; “Chief Adeniyi, don't drag us into the merits of this case. We do not know what the NJC will decide.”

In his ruling, the presiding justice said; “After rubbing minds, both counsel agreed to adjourn the matter to other date based on the matter before NJC. The case is hereby adjourned sine die.”

Speaking with journalists at the court premises; Chief Ladi Williams said; “Chief Oni averred in Paragraph 43 of his affidavit that Justice Salami, who presided at the Ilorin Appeal Tribunal had been reported to the NJC. The NJC as you know referred the investigations of the extremely serious allegations to some other law enforcement agencies like EFCC, ICPC, SSS and Police to assist in the investigation.

“What the court did today was to that both Oni and Fayemi should await the decision of the NJC because it will impact one way or the other on the case pending before the Court of Appeal.”