Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Legal fireworks over the presidential ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the 2019 election will commence at the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on January 15, 2019.
The appellate court fixed the date after sorting out some preliminary issues in the appeal lodged by the former governor of Cross River State Donald Duke, who challenging his nullification as the presidential candidate of the party by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
In the appeal, Duke is seeking the setting aside of the decision of the lower court which held that he was not the authentic candidate of the SDP for the 2019 presidential election, having emerged from a process said to be contrary to the party’s provision for the primary election.
A three-man panel of the appellate court had on December 31, 2018, ordered the service of the court processes on the respondents through substituted means. The court also on that same date adjourned to January 3, 2019, for the report of service.
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When the matter came up today, counsel to Duke, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), informed the court that all the processes relating to the appeal had been served on the respondents.
Jegede thereafter, asked for an abridgement of time in view of the closeness of the election scheduled for February 16, 2019.
On his part, counsel to the first respondent (Jerry Ghana), Mustapha Ibrahim, who admitted service of the process on the first defendant, however, requested for time to reply to the motion stating that he was standing in for his principal who was unavoidably absence in court.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Adamu Jauro, having established the urgency of the appeal, gave the first respondent eight days to reply to the appellant’s brief while he ordered the appellant to reply his counter within three days and adjourned till January 15 for hearing of the substantive suit filed by Donald Duke.
Gana had in his suit filed at the lower court, challenged the emergence of Duke as the presidential flag bearer of the SDP in the 2019 general election on the grounds that it contravened the party’s principle of zoning.
Delivering judgment on Gana’s suit, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of an Abuja High Court in Maitama, had on December 15, 2018, sacked Duke as Presidential candidate of the SDP.
The judge held that the emergence of the former governor of Cross River State as presidential candidate violated the zoning and rotation formula provided in Section 15(3) of the party’s constitution.
He subsequently declared the former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana, as the authentic presidential candidate of the party ahead of the 2019 elections.
Not satisfied with the judgment, Duke through his counsel, approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja to reverse the lower court’s decision.