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ONI DRAGS FAYEMI TO SUPREME COURT

By Lere Olayinka
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Exactly two weeks after the Court of Appeal in Ado Ekiti dismissed his suit against the October 15, 2010 judgment that sacked him from office, former Governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni has filed an appeal against the judgment.

The five-member panel of judges presided by Justice Tijani Abdullahi had on February 27, 2012 dismissed Oni's application, seeking the review of Appeal Court judgment that ousted him from office and made Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governor of Ekiti State.

The Appeal Court had ruled that; "It follows therefore that where there is an allegation of bias in a matter that has been determined to finality, this court cannot exercise its jurisdiction in favour of the applicant. This case of likelihood of bias would have been relevant if it had been raised at the hearing of the appeal before judgement was delivered. Having not been raised at the appropriate stage, this application lacks merit and is hereby dismissed."

However, Oni in the appeal filed yesterday by his counsel, Prof Ben Nwabueze (SAN), raised five grounds upon which he was challenging the judgment.

He said the Court of Appeal erred in law when it held that allegation of bias or likelihood of bias ought to be raised in the course of the proceeding before judgment and not after.

“Allegation of bias or likelihood of bias raises solemn and fundamental issue on the Applicant's right to fair hearing guaranteed under Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Issues bothering on the denial of Applicant's constitutional right to fair hearing can be raised at any stage in the course or after the proceedings complained about,” Oni averred.

In ground three of the appeal, Oni said; “The learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they refused to assume jurisdiction to grant the Applicant's Motion on the basis that the Court of Appeal had determined the matter to finality in the following terms 'in cases of established bias, this Court has consistently refused to review its earlier judgment.' See the case of Ukachukwu vs Uba and consequently dismissed the Applicant's Motion.

“The contention that the matter has been determined to finality or that the Honourable Court was functus officio will not hold where the complaint of the Applicant is on established bias or likelihood of bias which bothers on denial of fair hearing.

“It is settled law that where the Applicant raises issues which can lead to the judgment being set aside as a nullity, the Honourable Court has jurisdiction to entertain and grant an application.

“The law is settled in a long line of Supreme Court decisions including FRN vs Ifeagwu (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 842) p. 113 at p. 181 that where the judgment of a Court is a nullity or where the Court lacks jurisdiction over the matter, a Court of law can review its even where the decision or judgment is said to be final.”

On the Appeal Court position that the case would have been relevant if it had been raised at the hearing of the appeal before judgment was delivered, Oni argued that; “There was ample and uncontroverted affidavit evidence before their Lordships on the facts rendering it impossible for the Applicant to raise the issue of bias before judgment was delivered in the proceeding.

“The Applicant averred that the facts upon which the bias or likelihood of bias were based became known to him only after publication in a Newspaper several weeks after the judgment was delivered.

“The affidavit evidence and the Newspaper publication which were exhibited to the affidavit were before the court.

“Their Lordships failed to consider or evaluate the evidence placed before the Court by the Applicant before arriving at the unjust conclusion.”

The former governor therefore sought an order of the Supreme Court, setting aside the February 27, 2012 judgement, and the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin delivered on October 15, 2010, nullifying his election as the governor of Ekiti State.