By Ola Ajayi & Olasunkanmi Akoni
IBADAN â€” THE Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, yesterday, nullified the election of Chief Iyiola Omisore, as Senator representing Osun East Senatorial District and ordered a re-run within 60 days.
Until yesterday, Omisore was Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation.
Ironically, Omisore, who was impeached as Deputy Governor of Osun State in 2002 under then Governor Bisi Akande, had, on Monday, picked the expression of interest form to contest the 2011 governorship election on the platform of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP.
Yesterdayâ€™s verdict of the Appellate Court was yet another political setback for Omisore who was tried but discharged and acquitted by an Appellate Court over the murder of former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige.
The lower Election Petition Tribunal which sat in the state had dismissed the petition of the Action Congress candidate, Mr. Babajide Omoworare and upheld the declaration of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that returned Omisore as the lawful winner of the election.
But dissatisfied with the tribunalâ€™s judgment, the AC candidate filed an appeal at the higher court through his counsel, Folasade Aofolaju, alleging that Omisore was not duly elected as Senator.
He prayed the court to void the election of the Omisore 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 December 13, 2002.
Based on these allegations, he argued that he ought not to have been returned by the electoral body having failed to satisfy 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 about two-hour judgment by the three-man panel of the Appeal Court led by Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, the court held that the lower tribunal erred by upholding Omisore’s 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 â€” Clara Ogunbiyi, Sidi Bage and Modupe Fasanmi â€”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 pronounced him guilty of the offence, it could not be held against him.
But on the issue of non-compliance, the court held that the lower tribunal somersaulted in its conclusion. Justice Ogunbiyi said, â€œWith 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.
â€œIt 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.â€
The court ordered that the electoral body should organise a fresh election within 60 days.
Speaking with newsmen after the judgment, Omoworare said he was happy that justice had come his way at last.
He said that although the journey was tortuous, he was happy that the truth had prevailed.
AC asks Omisore to return salaries and allowances
In a reaction, National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it was unfortunate that a man without mandate held a key post in the Senate as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, in addition to serving 30 out of 48 months.
â€œThis 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 of, 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.
â€œThe party therefore hails the judiciary for showing that some institutions in the country have not been overwhelmed by corruption, and commended Mr. Jide Omoworare of the Action Congress (AC), who challenged Omisoreâ€™s election, for his conviction and courage.
â€œIt takes conviction and courage to take on a man like Omisore. We want men like Omoworare, who cannot be intimidated.
â€œIt 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.