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COURT BARS OSUN REC FROM CONDUCTING APRIL POLLS

By NBF News
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A Federal High Court, sitting in Osogbo has restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from using the embattled Osun State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Rufus Akeju to conduct the April elections in Osun State. Akeju, who drew the ire of media practitioners in Osun State last week, for allegedly assaulting one of their own, the correspondent of the Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Ayanbimpe Sefiu, in his office, was dragged to court by the state chapter of the PDP.

In a case filed by its counsel, Mr. Kehinde Adesiyan and which had INEC as co-defendant, PDP leveled allegations of bias against Akeju, describing him as a sympathizer of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

In a 28-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, deposed to by a member of the party's elder caucus, Major Raphael Ayotunde Towobola (retd), the party alleged among other things that prior to the appointment of Akeju as the REC, he had lived and worked in Lagos State as a Special Assistant in the government of former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

It explained that by virtue of his former position, he was 'under the strong influence of Tinubu, a leader and chieftain of ACN, a political party which is presently governing Osun State and that he cannot claim to be non partisan and impartial.'

The REC was accused of having demonstrated unusual and suspicious interest in the activities of ACN and protected its members unduly.

Ruling on the originating summons yesterday, Justice Babs Kuewumi granted all the prayers of the PDP and restrained Akeju from conducting the April general elections. He also restrained INEC from using him (Akeju) as the REC in the coming elections.

The matter was later adjourned till April 6, 2011.
The case, which was filed on March 18 but adjourned till yesterday to enable INEC make its defence, did not feature any representative from the PDP at the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday.

PDP's counsel, Adesiyan informed the court that the non-appearance of INEC was 'a deliberate attempt to frustrate the court.' He consequently urged the court to grant the prayers of his client and restrain the defendants from using Akeju as the REC to conduct the April elections.

While citing Section 14 (3) of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, Adesiyan sought for a declaration that Akeju cannot impartially conduct or supervise the conduct of a credible election in Osun State in April 2011.

Just last week, the Osun State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) directed all its members to boycott all activities of the INEC until the electoral commission redeployed Akeju from the state.

The union was reacting to the allegation of assault leveled against the REC by one of its members, Mr. Ayanbimpe Sefiu.

Sefiu had gone to Akeju's office to get his reaction to a petition against him when he was allegedly beaten up by the electoral officer in his office.