By Dayo Benson Political Editor, Ise-Oluwa Ige &Â Ikechukwu Nnochiri
LAGOSâ€”Embattled Action Congress governorship candidate in 2007 election in Osun State Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola, who was arraigned before an Abuja Magistrate Court yesterday over allegation of forged police report has been granted bail.
Magistrate Salisu Lamido granted him bail in the sum N2 million and a surety of a civil servant with level 16 or someone who has landed property in Abuja.
He arrived Lagos at about 8 p.m. from Abuja after meeting the bail conditions in company of four members of Osun State House of Assembly.
He was received at the Murtala Muhammed Airport by party supporters from Alimosho Local Government Area, family members and his media aide.
The police had arraignedÂ Aregbesola before an Abuja Magistrate Court sitting in Life Camp.
He was alleged to have tendered a forged final security report allegedly authored by the Nigeria Police Force before an Osun State Election Petition Tribunal which sat both in Oshogbo and Ibadan.
The 52-year old politician who was dressed in a white native attire yesterday was docked at exactly 12:15 PM.
He stood in the dock unperturbed all through the proceedings.
He told newsmen that the allegation against him was not only a sham but that the Abuja magistrate court before whom he is standing trial lacked the jurisdiction to try him.
He is contending that the subject-matter of the criminal allegation preferred against him emanated from proceedings of superior courts of record and that only a higher court could have jurisdiction to entertain questions on validity of the document in dispute.
He said he would raise the issue of jurisdiction at the next adjourned date.
The police, had, specifically accused Aregbesola of tendering the alleged fake security report, first, before the Justice Narom-led Osun State Governorship and National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which sat in Osogbo before representing the same document before the fresh tribunal hearing his petition.
The police said that Aregbesola presented the said document in order to mislead the court to enter judgment in his favour.
Aregbesola contested the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial election against the incumbent, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola but INEC declared the latter as winner.
He has since been in court to contest the electoral victory of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola on the account that he emerged the winner of the April 14 gubernatorial poll through alleged manipulation of the electoral process by agents of the state, including the police.
He had tendered a final security report allegedly authoured by the Nigeria Police Force, indicting prominent Nigerians who allegedly played substantial roles in the alleged rigging of the election in favour of the incumbent.
The report though was rejected by Justice Naron_led Election Petition Tribunal but the Court of Appeal had overruled the verdict of the tribunal and ordered a retrial of the petition.
Aregbesola who had called for the probe of all those indicted by the report had re-presented the said controversial document before the new tribunal.
The police did nothing on his request.
But in a twist, the police which never denied the authenticity of the report more than a year when it was in circulation suddenly began to act on a petition by the incumbent governor of the state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola to the effect that the report was forged.
Aregbesola was arrested and was charged before the Abuja magistrate court with forgery of the security report.
The criminal allegation was contained in a First Information Report (FIR) filed before the court.
According to the FIR, Aregbesolaâ€™s action constituted an offence, punishable under sections 97(2), 364 and 366 of the Nigerian penal code.
Aregbesola, who was docked at exactly 12:15 yesterday, however entered a plea of not guilty to the charge.
He did not waste time to make an oral application for his bail, which the police vehemently opposed.
Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana represented him in court yesterday.
He said bail could be granted him based on the oral application, citing relevant case laws.
But the prosecution said it was opposed to his request for bail.
Relying on sections 340 and 341 of the C.P.C, the prosecuting counsel led by Mr Boniface Asogwa, urged the court to refuse the bail application.
He urged the court to invoke section 129 of the CPC to remand the accused person in prison custody for 15 days to enable the police conclude investigations on the matter.
He insisted that there was the likelihood that Aregbesola would interfere with police investigations or commit further offences if released.
He said his argument was rooted in the way he comported himself at the weekend while on police bail.
Narrating how the accused had allegedly conducted himself in a manner likely to cause breach of peace, he told the court that the accused person after securing release from police custody on August 8, quickly went to Lagos where he started granting press interviews, misleading people that the police exonerated him of the criminal charges.
The prosecution also told the court that the accused had refused to honour police invitation until a warrant was issued for his arrest and that even at the station, that he refused to answer all the questions posed to him by the IPO handling his case.
However, the defence counsel led by Mr Femi Falana refuted the allegations, maintaining that his client willingly submitted himself to the police yesterday morning for arraignment.
He relied on sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution to insist that his client be granted bail on liberal terms.
He told the court that the accused had gone to the police headquarters yesterdayâ€™s morning to volunteer a statement.
He however averred that the accused was going to challenge the constitutional validity of the charge against him, claiming that the said forged document was certified and that the magistrate court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter in the first instance as an election tribunal and the court of appeal had earlier adjudicated over the same subject matter.
The magistrate after standing the case down for two hours, granted the accused bail in the sum of N2million and asked him to produce a surety who must either be a level 16 civil servant or owner of landed property in Abuja.
He was further ordered to report to the police headquarters everyday till August 17.
The matter was adjourned till September 8 for hearing.