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OSUN 2007: TRIBUNAL RESERVES FINAL RULING

By NBF NEWS
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The election retrial tribunal sitting in Osogbo has reserved ruling on the petition filed by the Action Congress (AC) candidate, Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, against the result of the April 14, 2007 governorship election in the state.

Aregbesola had dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police and the declared winner of the election, Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, before the tribunal, to challenge the result of the election, which he claimed to have won.

The tribunal resumed its sitting yesterday in a very tense atmosphere while supporters of both Oyinlola and Aregbesola were denied access to the court premises. Armed police personnel and men of the State Security Services (SSS) cordoned off all roads leading to the venue of the tribunal sitting.

Only lawyers, journalists and party chieftains were allowed into the courtroom after being frisked by detectives.

However, the controversial police report on the disputed election re-echoed at the resumed sitting of the Justice Garba Alli-led panel, as the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Niyi Owolade, said Aregbesola's case could no longer stand with his failure to present the police report.

Owolade, who was the counsel for Nigeria Police, pointed out that the Court of Appeal, sitting in Ibadan ordered a retrial of the petition based on the complaint by the petitioner (Aregbesola) that he was not allowed to present the police report thus also denied the opportunity to display the forensic report.

'My Lord, it is pertinent to say that the petitioner has alleged that the non-submission of the police report is vital to their petition.

'It is curious that this vital document is gone and withheld as the petitioner suddenly developed cold feet. I submit that the failure to tender the police report is in bad faith and it has knocked the basis for this retrial,' Owolade stated.

Replying, lead counsel to Aregbesola, Ebun Sofunde (SAN), explained that the police report could no longer be tendered because it had become a subject of litigation in a court of law in Abuja.

The lawyer stated that efforts by the petitioner to ensure that the police report was produced by its author were frustrated apart from 'systematic harassment' of the petitioner.

'It is also a matter of record that subpoena was made to serve on the police but all attempts were frustrated. It is in the process that our counsel was arrested. The police report was a document of the police. They are the maker; we are not.

'But it is interesting to note that it was after the judgment of the Court of Appeal that interest suddenly arose on the document,' Sofunde stated.

Earlier in his address, the lead counsel to Governor Oyinlola, Mallam Yusuff Ali (SAN), urged the court to ignore Aregbesola's petition, pointing out that the written address by the petitioner contained 'foreign evidences' which were not in the earlier evidences before the tribunal.

According to the learned SAN, the summations and findings purportedly made by the petitioner as regards timing was not in the earlier evidences before the tribunal.

Ali also said the allegation of non-voting and widespread disenfranchisement made by Aregbesola was not sufficiently proved, urging the tribunal to give the petition 'decent burial'.

After thanking the counsel for their efforts, Chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Garba Ali, told the parties that the 'date of judgment will be announced in due course'.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Solomon Olusegun, made a brief appearance at the court yesterday to personally confirm the security arrangements by his men, led by the Area Commander for Osogbo, Mr. Usman Long Long.