REPLY TO COMMENTS BY JUSTICE AYO SALAMI, PRESIDENT, COURT OF APPEAL, ON OSUN GOVERNORSHIP CASE:

By Lere Olayinka
Listen to article

President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami in an elaborate interview in Thisday newspaper of Tuesday January 25,2011(Thisday Lawyer, pages viii-xi) made some very interesting comments on the controversial Osun Governorship Appeal judgment .

Justice Salami's comments deserve to be highlighted for Nigerians to understand the kind of leadership he is giving the Court of Appeal. We quote him:Justice Salami:“Then, he, (Senator Iyiola Omisore) raised the issue of using a few Justices to determine appeals. Well, when it comes to that, you must use people you trust, you can't just empanel anybody.”Our Comment:This is an interesting comment from the President of the Court of Appeal who has been accused of using only NINE out of the 52 Justices in his court for governorship election appeal cases since he took over as the head of that court. Now his defence is that:

” you must use people you trust.“ Trust to do what? Or is he saying that there are untrustworthy Justices in the Court of Appeal? We ask Justice Salami to disclose the names of those he does not trust among the Justices of the Court of Appeal. This will assist Nigerians in deciding who they take their cases to. Is it based on “trust” that the Clara Ogunbiyi panel had to FALSIFY court records as it claimed in its judgment that Oyinlola's lawyers did not object to the admissibility of the reports of AC's polling agents (who never showed up in court throughout the trial). It is there in the record of proceedings (page

142 of Vol. 6) that one of Oyinlola's lead counsel, Dr Alex Izinyon, SAN objected on 5th August,2009 to the first set of these agents'

reports being tendered by persons who did not author them. He was overruled. Subsequent applications by Aregbesola's lawyers to tender other sets were equally objected to throughout the proceedings by Oyinlola's lawyers. And the lower tribunal overruled them. Very interestingly, the “trustworthy” appeal panel of Justice Clara Ogunbiyi closed its eyes to the court records and held on page 68 of its judgment that “the admission of the exhibits without objection presuppose that they were authentic in the absence of any challenge.”

How trustworthy! Even then, we challenge Justice Salami to publish the names of the members of the Governorship Appeal Panels he (himself, NOT his predecessor) set up since he assumed office as the head of the appellate court. Justice Salami: (on the cancellation of all votes in 10 out of 30 local governments in Osun State)“That cannot be correct. It is there in the Electoral Act and the Judiciary did not make the Electoral Act ! it was made by the National Assembly and assented to by the President. That if there is no substantial compliance, the election should be nullified. Substantial compliance is that they looked at the 30 Local Governments in the state and 20 of them were found to be inviolate, they were intact. I cannot therefore see how 20 upon 30 can be more than 60%. It was only 10 Local Governments that were found to be tainted. They didn't nullify all the Local Governments . They nullified polling booth by polling booth and ward by ward. In some of the Local Governments, the votes were counted along with other Local Governments and they challenged a number of votes in some polling booths. If they found more than 50% votes bad, that particular polling booth was nullified and the votes cast in that booth voided, otherwise the result from that booth was upheld. Then they go to the next polling booth. At the end of the day they came to the Local Governments and counted how many polling booths were voided in each Local Government.” Our Comment:It is interesting and alarming that Justice Salami could tell Nigerians that not all votes in the 10 Local governments were nullified. So, how many were nullified and how many left intact? We challenge Justice Salami to answer this question and also publish the Clara Ogunbiyi judgment and show the whole world where this process of counting votes polling booth by polling booth, ward by ward etc, is in the judgment. We see in that statement by Justice Salami an attempt to re-write the judgment because of the inherent indefensible contradictions that run through it. Or could it be that Justice Salami himself could not believe that a court of law could WANTONLY annul ALL VOTES in ALL polling booths in 10 out of 30 local governments and then proceed to declare someone governor? Well, that is what his TRUSTED Justices did in this case. Even in some units and wards in some of the 10 Local Governments where the Action Congress did not complain of any irregularity and did not call a single witness, Clara Ogunbiyi's panel still “dutifully” cancelled ALL votes there. Examples are Ward 7 Boluwaduro and Ward 7 Ifedayo Local Governments where the AC said elections were free and fair; yet ALL votes there were cancelled by Justice Ogunbiyi's panel. And they had to do it otherwise the anointed would not have had enough votes to be declared winner. We challenge Justice Salami to publish the judgment and also point out his claim that the Ogunbiyi panel looked at all the 30 local governments in the state “and 20 of them were found to be inviolate.” Let Justice Salami publish the judgment and show all these claims so that his accusers could be shamed ! Justice Salami:“Well , we are contemplating, these people, when judgments are given in their favour, they praise the court; when it's against them, they condemn the court.Our commentWho are “these people” he derisively referred to? Could it be that he was referring to the ACN and its media organizations which are known for this behaviour? However, did Justice Salami know he spoke like a politician in making that comment ? Quite unfortunate !Justice Salami:“For instance, in their attack on the court they referred to Justice Garba and insulted him. But the same people praised the same Justice Garba in GBENGA DANIEL V AJIMOBI. I was the one who set up the panel and Garba presided, yet they found him competent and said he is the best thing that has ever happened to the Nigerian Judiciary ! That was when he delivered the judgment in Ogun State. But this time, because it was against them and they have no spirit of sportsmanship, they decided to go berserk !”Our comment“ Yes, Justice Garba presided over Daniel V Amosun (Not Daniel V Ajimobi, there is no such case.) In the Daniel V Amosun case, Justice Garba read a judgement in which he pointedly asserted that one Tunde Yadeka was NOT an expert in the examination and analysis of election materials. The same Justice Garba, a few months later was a member of the Ogunbiyi panel on the Osun case where he and others declared that the same man, Yadeka, is an expert on election materials examination and analysis. Now, which of the views should a reasonable, objective person believe? Justice Salami:“People who attempted to bribe us are now blaming us.”Our Comment:Justice Salami in making this comment has leveled a very weighty allegation which he has to prove. Again, we do not know if he is aware that in that comment is an open admission of concealment of crime which is also a crime in our law?As for Justice Salami's broadside against lawyers that they wanted governorship election cases taken to the Supreme Court so that they can “get fat briefs for themselves “we believe that the Bar can defend itself. Again, what could be going on in his mind when he asked his rhetorical question on the Supreme Court's decision in Amaechi case that “How many people accepted it as a good decision up till today?” What message was he sending out to Nigerians who look up to the courts for redress?

CONCLUSION:WE wish to state very clearly that Osun PDP remains a very staunch believer in the judiciary and would do nothing to disparage it. We, however, stress that our party will not fold its arms whenever the truth is stood on its head especially on the controversial Appeal Court verdict on the 2007 Osun governorship election. These are, indeed, interesting times !Signed:Otunba Sunday Ojo- WilliamsActing C