Saturday, November 27, 2010

Appeal Court sacks Oyinlola, declares Aregbesola as governor

The sun set yesterday on Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as he was sacked as Osun State governor by the Court of Appeal The Justice Clara Binta Ogunbiyi-led five-man appeal tribunal, in a unanimous decision on the appeal filed by Rauf Aregbesola, the Action Congress candidate in the contentious April 14, 2007 governorship election, nullified Oyinlola’s election and ordered that the appellant be sworn in as the duly elected winner of the poll.

The court verdict was greeted with wild jubilation by the teeming ACN supporters in court and the news sparked off excitement as it filtered into the state and Ibadan, seat of the court.

The court cancelled elections in 10 of the 30 local governments in the state, where the AC candidate alleged there were over-voting, ballot stuffing and failure to announce the results at polling centres, among other electoral irregularities, as well as intimidation of the voters by the thugs sponsored by the Oyinlola-led PDP.
It held that Aregbesola won the majority votes in the remaining 20 council areas after doing the tally of the ballots in these areas.

Specifically, the five wise men said the ACN candidate scored 198, 799 votes, as against Oyinlola’s 172,880.
They therefore, ordered that the Certificate of Return issued Oyinlola by the Independent National Electoral Commission in 2007 be withdrawn and given to Aregbesola, who they declared had satisfied Section 179 (2a and b) and 147 of the Electoral Act.
In the four-hour 37-minutes judgment read by Justice Ogunbiyi, and supported to by Justices M. L. Garba, P.A. Galinge, C. C Nweze, and A. Jauro, the court chided the lower tribunal for validating the election of Oyinlola, despite the avalanche of substantial evidence and exhibits presented by Aregbesola’s counsel, saying that it failed to evaluate the preponderance of evidence adduced, thereby displaying jaundiced view on the whole matter.

The court upheld all the five reliefs sought by Aregbesola, saying that all the consequential orders sought were tenable and justifiable.
Aregbesola had, in his legal team, Chief Ebun Sofunde (SAN) leading Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN), Mr. Deji Sasegbon (SAN) and Professor Yemi Osibajo (SAN), while Oyinlola was represented by a team led by Mallam Yussuf Alli (SAN).
Others had been Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Kunle Kalejaye (SAN), and Mr. Nathaniel Oke (SAN) among others.
The 10 council areas where the results of the election were nullified by the appeal court were Atakumosa, Ayedade, Boluwaduro, Boripe Ife Central, Ife East, Ife South, Ifedayo, Isokan and Odo Otin.

The results of the votes from the controversial local governments were deducted from the total votes announced, leaving Aregbesola with the higher majority lawful votes, qualifying him for declaration as the winner of the 2007 elections.
INEC had announced Oyinlola to have polled 253, 789 in the 10 local governments, while a total of 41, 923 votes were recorded for Aregbesola.
The 21 grounds of relief sought by Aregbesola and which he prayed the court to resolve, were collapsed into five and wholly granted. They included determining “whether the lower tribunal was right by concluding that all the allegations raised by the petitioner are criminal in nature and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt; whether the evidence of the 69 witnesses called by the appellant could be regarded as mere allegations or proved beyond reasonable doubt, whether the evidence of polling agents called by the appellants can subsist; whether the failure of INEC to call evidence and cross-examine the appellants’ witnesses amounted to abandonment of their pleadings and admission of the allegations, and whether the lower  tribunal properly evaluated the oral and documentary evidence of the appellant.”

In their final decision, having considered all the reliefs sought on their merits, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi said: “In considering the reliefs sought, it is my opinion that the 2007 election in Osun State cannot be said to have complied with the Electoral Act. From the above, a candidate can only be declared winner if he polls the majority lawful votes. Having voided elections in the 10 local governments, there is, no doubt, that the first appellant (Aregbesola) won the elections and has satisfied the requirements of the Electoral Act. Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was returned as governor of Osun State, was not validly elected, as he did not score the highest number of votes as required. The first appellant, having been shown to have won the highest votes is hereby declared as the governor of Osun State in the 2007 election. His reliefs succeeded on all grounds. In the result, the appeal is hereby allowed.

“An order is hereby given that the votes in the 10 local governments are voided and the election of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola is hereby nullified.”
In the consequential order reeled out, the judges concluded that “the first appellant (Aregbesola), having satisfied the requirements he be and is hereby declared the governor of Osun State; that the Certificate of Return of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola is hereby withdrawn; that the INEC should give the Certificate of Return to Engineer. Rauf Aregbesola; and that the first appellant be sworn in as the governor of Osun state as well as his Deputy forthwith.”


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