Osun Governorship Battle: Final Judgment Day Announced

Oyinlola

The Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan will tomorrow deliver judgment  in an appeal filed by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in Osun State in the 2007 election, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola against the declaration of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the governor of Osun State by the state election petitions tribunal.

Confirming this to P.M.NEWS this afternoon, counsel to Aregbesola, Barrister Kunle Adegoke said he received a notice to this effect from an official of the court. Judgement was reserved in the case 1 November after the lawyers to the two parties made their oral and written submissions.

The judgment  is expected to bring to an end the long drawn legal tussle over the real winner of the governorship election held April 2007.

The two parties involved in the appeal suit in Osun State 2007 governorship election had on 1 November adopted their written addresses before the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan presided over by Justice Clara B. Ogunbiyi.

Other members of the panel are: Justices  M.I. Garba, P.A. Galinge, P.C. Nweze and Adamu  Jauro.

First to adopt his written address was Akin Olujimi, SAN, who led other lawyers  for Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, the ACN candidate. After making some corrections, the counsel submitted his address.

Olujimi argued that the 2007 election in Osun was characterised by irregularities and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in 10 local governments and districts.

According to Olujimi, the state tribunal erred in its judgement which favoured Governor Oyinlola of PDP, stressing that if the results of the 10 local governments in dispute were nullified, his client, Aregbesola, should be declared as the lawful winner of the 2007 governorship election in Osun State.

Aregbesola’s lead counsel also argued that his client called  75 witnesses to support his case and that it was wrong for the tribunal to have stated that he did not call witnesses. He submitted  that the testimony of the 75 witnesses who were polling supervisors were reliable and competent.

Olujimi further argued that all the allegations raised before the lower court were not criminal as held by the tribunal; saying that the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to carry out its duties were not criminal but civil.

He said: “the tribunal failed completely to consider all these irregularities.

“He thereby urged the appellate court to upturn the judgement of the tribunal and declare Aregbesola the winner.

However, Yusuf Alli, SAN, representing Governor Oyinlola, urged the court to dismiss the appeal, arguing that poll supervisors called as witnesses by Aregbesola were not known to law as per section 62 of the Electoral Act.

Alli stated that the court should not use the case of Fayemi versus Oni to judge the case.He said the document tendered by Aregbesola were not linked to his case.  Therefore, the court should disregard them.

“The reliefs sought by the applicant are declarative in nature which cannot be accepted except they are proven beyond reasonable doubt,” Oyinlola’s counsel averred.

Responding to Alli’s argument, Olujimi maintained that Aregbesola validly won the election and should therefore be declared the validly elected governor.

The case began in 2007 when Aregbesola filed a 1004 page petition contending that INEC and the police colluded with the PDP to rig the election in favour of Oyinlola. Aregbesola’s petition included forensic analysis of the ballot papers used for the election to prove that the poll in 10 councils did not follow the electoral law. It was the first time a candidate will turn to science to prove rigging.

But in February 2008, the election tribunal led by Justice Thomas Naron rejected the forensic tests. Aregbesola’s party protested to the Court of Appeal, calling for the dissolution of the tribunal. The petitition however did not stop the tribunal as on 15 July, 2008, it dismissed the ACN’s candidate’s  case. The following March, the Appeal court in Ibadan upturned the verdict of the lower tribunal and ordered a retrial. On 27 May 2010, the lower tribunal again dismissed Aregbesola’s case. That took the matter back to the Appeal Court, whose judgement is being awaited tomorrow.