By Dayo Benson, Political Editor,Â Okey Ndiribe, Kingsley Omonobi, Abuja, Abdulwahab Abdulah, Sukanmi Akoni & Dapo Akinrefon
Claims and counter claims are trailing arrest of the 2007Â Action Congress (AC) candidate Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola in Lagos.
The police in Abuja told journalists that Aregbesola was arrested in the Egbeda, Lagos home of the politician. This, police said, came after three days of trailing Aregbesola, following a court ruling that the Police had the right to arrest him for interrogation.
Police saidÂ Aregbesola was arrested while hiding inside the ceiling of a house located at No 2, Fatayi Street, Egbeda, in the outskirts of Lagos after he had given several fake addresses in Surulere, Yaba and Lagos Island.
The police went on to say that when he was arrested by 8 special detectives from the Police Special Investigations Unit from Abuja, Aregbesola reported offered the detectives large sums of money to let him escape but they refused and moved him to Abuja aboard a Virgin Nigeria flight that arrived the FCT by 4 pm.
The police explained that at the force headquarters, Aregbesola was immediately subjected to series of interrogations bothering on the forged police report which he used to secure a verdict for the retrial of the case challenging the victory of Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola at the Appeal Court in Ibadan , Oyo state.
As at the time of going to press yesterday night, Chief Aregbesola was still being quizzed by the Police over the forged report.
Police authorities also disclosed that the lead counsel to the Action Congress governorship candidate in the April 2007 election Chief Kola Awodein (SAN), who was on 22nd June 2009, quizzed for over eight hours by the Special investigation team is on the run following his refusal to appear in court to unravel those behind the forged Police report that was tendered at the Court of Appeal by Engr. Rauf Aregbesola.
However, reactions have poured in, denying the police account of the arrest.
Lawyer to the politician, Mr. Femi Falana, who was with gubernatorial candidate at the time of the arrest, reacting to the police statement yesterday evening, told Saturday Vanguard that â€œAt 9.40 am, two police officers, inspectors, Anthony Laremu and Julius Monday, visited the Egbeda house of Aregbesola, unarmed.
They were civil and courteous. They showed him a warrant of arrest, issued by Samiu Kabiru. He was informed that he was wanted at the Panti Police Station. At Panti, theyÂ met with DC Solomon Arese who politely told them that he was being awaited in Abuja. They left for Abuja by 3 pm and headed for the police headquarters.
He has since concluded making a statement on the alleged forged document. Therefore, the libelousÂ and prejudicial statement credited to the police has exposed the police in the grand plot by the respondents in the ongoing action at Oshogbo to divert the course of justice.â€
On Awodein, the lawyer said, â€œIt is also highly irresponsible and despicable to give the impression that Chief Kola Awodein SAN, is on the run.Â He is on the police bail, convincedÂ that the police acted illegally by encouraging on his rights in the course of his profession.â€
â€œIt was a big lieâ€ â€“Aregbesolaâ€™s Aide
Aregbesolaâ€™s aide, Mr Oyintiloye Olatunbosun who was also said â€œAregbesolaâ€™s arrest from the ceiling was untrue. They got to his house at about 9.30 am and left 10.50 am. They met him at the downstairs sitting room where they were waiting for him.
also took his time to prepare for the journey as he observed his usual post morning prayers. It is far from the truth. It was part of the police antics to rubbish the man. Also, this statement from the police that he was arrested from the ceiling can be described as if they have taken a position on the matter, even before investigation.
â€œTo show you that the man took his time before he followed them, his lawyers even came and meet him before he departed the house.â€ Oyintiloye continued.
On the police claim that Aregbesola was arrested inside a ceiling where he was hiding, Alhaji
AC shocked and dismayed
Reacting to theÂ arrest, AC national publicity secretary,Â Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the party is deeply shocked and dismayed at the arrest ofÂ Aregbesola, over the genuineness or otherwise of a police report which he tendered at the Osun Election Petition Tribunal.
In a statement issued in Lagos on yesterday by Alhaji Mohammed, the party also expressed concern at the safety of Alhaji Aregbesola while in the custody of the police, which has shown crass partisanship in handling the issue. Calling for the immediate release of its candidate, AC said the action of the police in arresting Aregbesola amounted to pre_empting the election petition tribunal, as the Tribunal is yet to pronounce on the genuineness or otherwise of the document in question.
AC also reminded the police of last Tuesdayâ€™s ruling of a Federal High Court in Lagos, which warned the Inspector_General of Police against impeding Aregbesola in the prosecution of his petition before the Osun Tribunal.
On the police claim that Aregbesola was arrested inside a ceiling where he was hiding, Alhaji Mohammed said, â€œwhy is the police trying to dramatise what is not? Why should Aregbesola hide in a ceiling? Is he a criminal? Did he commit murder? Is he a 419ner?
â€œThere is nobody in this country who has contributed to the growth of our democracy more than Aregbesola.â€
He is not an ordinary person; he is AC governorship candidate in Osun State in 2007. All he needs to do is to go to court and enforce his fundamental human right. I can see why crime is so rife in the country. The police should be ashamed of themselves for making this kind of claim, he added.
In same vein, a non governmental organisation, The Coalition of Oodua Self_Determination Groups (COSEG), has condemnedÂ the arrest of the AC governorship candidate in Osun State, Aregbesola, describing it as a conspiracy between the police and the federal government of Yarâ€™Adua.
In a releaseÂ in Lagos yesterday signed by its Director of Media and publicity, Mr. Olugbenga Soloki, the group stated that, the arrest of Aregbesola by is condemnableÂ and will see it as a conspiracy between the Nigeria force and Yarâ€™Adua led Federal government.
Law don reacts
However, Prof. Akin Oyebode of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos has warned the police to become in handling the forgery case Aregbesola,Â Â â€œThe fact that his arrest by the Police came shortly afterÂ he lost a case to prevent the arrest in Court gives me the impression itÂ was premeditated. It seems to meÂ like a designÂ to keep him out of circulation. â€œ Given the present circumstances,Â the police should be carefulÂ in orderÂ not be seen as partisan or as an agent ofÂ Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola andÂ theÂ Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP).
This is because Governor Oyinlola alleged that an act of criminality had been committed.Â Already, quite a number of witnessesÂ in the case have been harassed even within the premises of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to the extent that the judge had to caution the Police not to harass witnesses. TheÂ Police have to be very careful in order not to be perceivedÂ as an engine of oppression in the middle of proceedings at the Tribunal.
he chairman of AC in Osun State , Alhaji Moshood Adeoti reacted sharply to the arrest, saying, â€œIt is simply despicable.â€
He said the arrest followed a pattern of opposition clampdown in the state owing to the aggressive pursuit of the governorship case against Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.
â€œIt is simply intimidation. It is harassment. PDP wants to frustrate the on_going case against Oyinlola at the tribunal. That is why they want to disperse us. They will fail woefully,â€ he added.
A member of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Bashir Bolarinwa lamented that the police have become a willing tool in the hand of the ruling party in the country to humiliate and hound into detention their more competent rivals. He warned against activities that could truncate democracy on the part of the ruling to the detriment of the country.
Two associates of Aregbesola, Alhaji Jide Jimoh, Yaba Local Council Development Council (LCDA) chairman and his Mosan_Okunola counterpart, Alhaji Abiodun Mafe said PDP has decided to wage war against AC in the South_west for obvious reason.