A judge of the Ekiti State High Court, Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi, has withdrawn from the suit challenging the eligibility of the Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, to contest in the June 21 election, which he won.
It was learnt that the record of proceedings in the case had been transmitted to the Court of Appeal, Ado-Ekiti, for hearing of an appeal filed by Fayose against the judge assumption of jurisdiction to hear the case.
The PUNCH gathered on Sunday that Justice Ogunyemi withdrew from the case filed by members of the Ekiti-11, Mr. Adeniyi Ajakaiye and Olufemi Ajayi, citing threat to his life.
It was also learnt that the case billed for hearing today (Monday) would no longer take place as lawyers handling the case had been informed by court officials not to come.
The judge’s action followed a motion on notice filed by the defence team of the governor asking him to disqualify himself from the case. The motion was served on the plaintiffs counsel on Thursday.
Our correspondent learnt that the case file had been returned to the Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola.
When contacted, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mr. Rafiu Balogun, told our correspondent that the case would no longer come up for hearing today.
He said, “Court officials have told us not to come again on Monday because the case will not come up for hearing. He said a fresh hearing notice would be served on parties at the appropriate time.”
Balogun said he was not aware if Justice Ogunyemi had withdrawn from the case.
He, however, confirmed that the motion on notice seeking the disqualification of the judge from the case had been served on the plaintiffs.
When contacted, Fayose’s Special Assistant on Legal, Mr. Owoseni Ajayi, declined comments.
One of the lawyers to the governor, however, confirmed that the case would no longer come up for hearing today.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress in Ekiti State has advised Justice Daramola not to accede to the request by the PDP to reassign the case to another judge.
The state Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, said the Chief Judge would have to be firm.
“He should not allow desperate politicians to hijack the judiciary because the arm is expected to dispense justice without fear or favour and a situation whereby one of the parties is allowed to dictate who to handle the case will erode the respect for this arm of government.
“We are not against the CJ reassigning the case based on his own discretionary power, but doing so because the PDP is making unsubstantiated allegations would make the judiciary look as if it is not independent.
“What we want from the CJ is to be firm, resolute and be ready to defend the constitution not minding whose ox is gored. He should just do what he thinks is fair to all the parties and not to the PDP,” he added.
The PDP in a petition signed by the state Chairman, Chief Idowu Faleye, and sent to Justice Daramola, had raised the likelihood of bias against Justice Ogunyemi.
It asked the CJ to reassign the case another judge.
Faleye claimed in the petition that authoritative sources informed his party that Ogunyemi was being compelled by the plaintiffs, the opposition party in the state (the APC) and their foreign sponsors to deliver as earlier promised in an agreement.
He added that the only way out of the problem was to allow another judge to assume jurisdiction over the case, so that all parties to the case could have confidence in the judicious and judicial determination of the case.
The PDP state chairman maintained that his party and the governor had lost confidence in Justice Ogunyemi’s continued handling of the case.
Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi, had on September 22 assumed jurisdiction and refused an application to set aside an order abridging the time for Fayose to file his defence in the case.
Dissatisfied, Fayose in a Notice of Appeal filed at the State High Court, Ado-Ekiti, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), had accused the trial judge of denying him fair hearing.
Fayose also asked the judge to stay further proceedings in the suit pending determination of the interlocutory appeal.
The motion on notice was brought pursuant to Order 39 Rules 1, Order 54 Rule 1 of Ekiti State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2011 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.