By Ola Ajayi
IBADAN – THE Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, Thursday,Â has nullified the election of Senator Iyiola Omisore representing Osun East Senatorial Constituency in the National Assembly.
His election was dismissed following the appeal filed by the candidate of the Action Congress (AC) in the April 2007 election, Mr. Babajide Omoworare.
The lower Election Petition Tribunal which sat in the State had earlier upheld the declaration of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that returnedÂ Omisore as the lawful winner of the election.
But dissatisfied with the lower tribunal judgment, the AC candidate filed an appeal at the higher court through his counsel, Miss Folasade Aofolaju alleging that Senator Omisore was not duly elected as the Senator representing the Osun East Senatorial Constituency.
He also prayed the court to void the election of the senator because he was not qualified at the time of the election having been impeached as the State Deputy Governor by the House of Assembly on 13th December, 2002.
Based on these allegations, he argued that he ought not to have been returned by the electoral body having failed to satisfied the requirements stipulated by the constitution.
He went further that the election was vitiated by substantial non-compliance having been marred by violence, thuggery and intimidation; the electoral body erred by declaring him winner of the election.
In theÂ two-hour judgment by a three-man panel led by Honourable Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, the court held that the lower tribunal erred by upholding his election having admitted that the election was marred by violence, thuggery and non compliance with the Electoral Act 2006 in Ife Central, South and East.
The three justices-Justices Sidi Bage, Modupe Fasanmi and Clara OgunbiyiÂ resolved the issue of non-qualification in favour of the 1st and 2nd respondents saying only the court of law has the power to pronounce him guilty and not a Code of Conduct or a panel. And that since no court of law pronouncedÂ him guilty of the offence, it could not be held against him.
But on the issue of non compliance, the court said the lower tribunal seriously somersaulted in its conclusion.
The justice said, “With the findings of the tribunal, it established that there were thuggery, violence and absence of signatures of officials; one wonders what could be a serious proof. They erred in their majority conclusion.
“It is of significance that the justices in the lower tribunal were not unanimous in their judgment. On issues 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, the order of the lower tribunal to dismiss the petition is hereby set aside. The appeal is hereby allowed in part with respect to issues 2, 3,4,5,6 and 7. It is fair and just in terms of the alternative sought by the appellant to nullify the election of Senator Iyiola Omisore representing Osun East.”
The court ordered that the electoral body should organize a fresh election within 60 days.
AC asks Omisore to refund salaries
Also in a press release, The Action Congress (AC) has asked Iyiola Omisore and all public officials whose elections were nullified by the courts to refund to the public coffers every kobo they collected while serving without mandate.
In a statement issued in London Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (who is part of an AC delegation that is currently meeting with the chairman of the British All Party Parliamentary Group on electoral reforms in Nigeria), the party said it was unfortunate that a man without mandate has held a key post in the Senate as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, in addition to serving 30 out of 48 months.
“This brings to the fore the urgency of electoral reforms, the need to ensure that no elected official assumes office until all petitions against his/her election have been disposed off, and for elections to be held six months ahead of the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent administration, as recommended by the Justice Uwais panel but thrown out by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua.
“It is worth noting that while serving as a Senator without mandate, Omisore terrorised the opposition, even in matters that did not concern him, like the governorship re-run in Ekiti. We recall that this acting Senator was flown to Ekiti in a police helicopter for reasons yet unknown,â€™â€™ AC said.
The party hailed the judiciary for showing that some institutions in the country have not been overwhelmed by corruption, and commended Jide Omoworare, who challenged Omisoreâ€™s election, for his conviction and courage.
“It takes conviction and courage to take on a man like Omisore, who has a massive war chest from his days as deputy governor and a one-term Senator. We want men like Omoworare, who cannot be intimidated.
“It is precisely because we donâ€™t have many men like Omoworare, because we have stopped asking questions, that the PDP has continued with its electoral heists,â€™â€™ AC said.
The party said the fact that Omisoreâ€™s election was annulled on the basis of wide spread violence and malpractices, among other reasons, shows that even he as a former deputy governor and serving Senator, as well as his party (PDP), were not on ground at all during the elections.
“This shows that all the PDP relies on to win elections is brigandage!â€™â€™ it said.
AC expressed the hope that the re-run ordered by the court would have credibility, saying it provides yet another rare opportunity for President Yarâ€™Adua to demonstrate his administrationâ€™s so-called commitment to electoral reforms.”