April 20, 2010

Osun: PDP, INEC fault AC over police report

By Gbenga Olarinoye
OSOGBO—The non-presentation of the police report upon which the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial in the petition of the Osun State Action Congress, AC, governorship candidate in the 2007 election, Rauf Aregbesola, re-echoed on Monday as parties to the case adopted their written addresses.
Aregbesola is challenging the declaration of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate, as winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Niyi Owolade, who appeared for the police before the tribunal, wondered why the AC did not present the report throughout the trial.

Aregbesola and a member of the AC’s legal team are being tried before a Federal Capital Territory Magistrate’s Court for alleged involvement in forging the report which police authorities had disowned.

Owolade told the tribunal that the Court of Appeal, sitting in Ibadan, last year ordered a fresh trial of Aregbesola’s petition based on two major planks, including the failure of the previous tribunal, headed by Justice Thomas Naron, to allow AC to tender the police report.

He said it was rather surprising that throughout the fresh trial, the petitioner did not make any attempt to tender the police report and wondered why the AC failed to do so since it had earlier told the Court of Appeal that the non-admissibility of the police report amounted to lack of fair hearing.

According to him, the inability of the AC to tender the report before the new tribunal, headed by Justice Ali Garba, was in bad faith, adding that it had knocked out the basis for the fresh trial.

Lead counsel to Oyinlola, Mallam Yusuf Alli, SAN, in adopting the 232-page written address of his clients, urged the tribunal to give the petition a decent burial.

He faulted the submissions and findings made by the AC in annexure to the party’s address and urged the tribunal to discountenance them as they amounted to introducing evidence through the address.

Such an act which is tantamount to evaluating evidence, he added, is not allowed by law. He said only the tribunal judges were allowed by law to evaluate evidence.

Alli said the summations and findings made by the AC, showing the average voting time per polling station, were out of sync with the party’s pleadings in its petition.

He urged the tribunal to expunge all the extraneous matters from the AC’s petition, adding that the law is settled that a petitioner who alleges non-voting or widespread disenfranchisement of voters during election must call voters from all the affected polling stations who must tender their voter cards to show they did not vote.

This, he added, the AC did not do.

INEC’s counsel, Mr. Bayo Famakinwa-Johnson, said the issues formulated by the petitioners in their address were not the same as those before the tribunal. He, therefore, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.

Aregbesola’s lead counsel, Mr. Ebun Shofunde, SAN,, said his clients were unable to produce the police report due to what he called “systematic harassment” of his clients. He said all attempts by the bailiff to serve the police, as authors of the report, with an order to produce it were futile.
Shofunde dismissed arguments that the annexure in AC’s written address were attempts to evaluate evidence.

“We have been unable to produce the police report because of systematic harassment of two of our counsel. All attempts to subpoena the police was frustrated and it is sequel to that, that our counsel were arrested,” he told the court.

It is also a matter of record that subpoena was made to serve on the police but all attempts were frustrated.. The police report was a document of the police.

After the adoption of the addresses by counsel to all the parties, Justice Garba thanked the counsel for their diligence and cooperation.

He reserved judgment in the petition, saying counsel would be contacted when the tribunal is ready to enter judgment in the petition.