Nigeria: How Appeal Court nullifies Oyinlola ‘s election, declares Aregbesola winner
Barely a month after a Federal Appeal Court sitting in Ilorin nullified the election of former Governor Segun Oni of Ekiti, the Appeal Court in Ibadan, Oyo State capital on Friday sacked the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the governor of Osun State.
The court has ordered immediate swearing in of Mr Raufu Aregbesola also of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)who was adjudged the real winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election in the Living Spring State.
It was wild jubilation galore within the court room by the teeming supporters of the ACN immediately it was ordered that the Certificate of Return issued to Oyinlola by the Independent National Electoral Commission in 2007 be withdrawn and given to Aregbesola.
The victory of Aregbesola and his Deputy Mrs Titi Laoye Tomori was precipitated on the cancellation of the elections in ten of the local governments in the state where the ACN candidate alleged there were over-voting, ballot stuffing, 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.
In 4 hour 37- minutes judgment, the court presided over by Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, with M. L. Garba, P.A. Galinge, C. C Nweze, and A. Jauro chided the lower tribunal that ab initio validated the election of Oyinlola, despite the plethora 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 of the whole matter.
“The lower tribunal did a shoddy job and we are perturbed as well as shocked about the manner the tribunal handled the petition. It is even more amazing that the tribunal did not evaluate the voters list with names of many not ticked, and yet claimed to have voted. The INEC also failed to cross examine the witnesses called by the appellants, thus amounting to acquiescence of the allegations of irregularities made by the appellants.
“For the further guidance of the trial courts, we shall advise that the evidence of witnesses be placed on an imaginary scale so that the totality of the evidence is weighed. The tribunal’s (Justice Thomas Naron) approach was very wrong, reason it treated the evidence of the appellants as mere allegation. It said that it is only the evidence of the polling agents that can be considered. That is rather strange. It amounted to a total caricature and travesty of justice for the tribunal to have abandoned the preponderance of appellants’ evidence presented before it.
Just as the presiding Judge in her lead judgment upheld all the five reliefs sought by the Aregbesola, the four other Judges concurred, agreeing 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), Mr Nathaniel Oke (SAN) among others.
The ten of the 30 local governments in the state, where the results of the election were contested and which eventually 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 ten local governments while a total of 41, 923 votes were recorded for Aregbesola.
Upon deducting the considered illegally acquired votes initially recorded in favour of Oyinlola, the ACN candidate won with 198, 799 while Oyinlola was left with 172, 880 votes.
The grounds of relief sought by Aregbesola and which he prayed the court to resolve, and which were wholly granted 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.”