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Oyetola, Adeleke Present as Appeal Court Hears Osun Guber Case, Reserves Judgment

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Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, in company of his party, the All Progressives Congress, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer in the september 22, 2018 osun Gubernatorial election, Senator Ademola Adeleke, were all present on Wednesday as the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal attempted to overturn or uphold the March 22, 2019 judgment of the state Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which nullified the governor’s victory and declared Adeleke winner.

A five-man panel led by Justice Jummai Sankey, heard all the three appeals and a cross-appeal filed in relation to the disputed election and reserved its judgments.

The date of the judgments is to be communicated to the parties via hearing notices that will be served on their lawyers whenever the judgments are ready.

With Justice Sankey presiding, other members of the appeal panel which heard all the four appeals on Wednesday were Justices Abubakar Yahaya, George Mbaba, Isaiah Akeju and Bitrus Sanga during the over five hours long proceedings.

INEC had declared Oyetola and the APC the winner of the Osun State governorship election on the basis of the cumulative results of the September 22, 2018 main election and the September 27, 2018 supplementary poll.

Dissatisfied with the result declared by INEC, the PDP and Adeleke had filed their petition before the three-man Osun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, contending that they were the true winner of the election as they had already won after the September 22, 2018 poll and that there was no need for the September 27, 2018 supplementary election.

The tribunal, in its March 22, 2019 split judgment of two-to-one, nullified Oyetola’s victory and declared Adeleke and the PDP the winner of the election.

The tribunal’s chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, in his minority judgment, dissented from the majority judgment credited to Justices Peter Obiorah and Adegboye Gbolagunte.

The trio of Oyetola, the APC and INEC had filed separate appeals challenging the majority judgment.

Although, the majority judgment of the tribunal was in their favour, both Adeleke and the PDP had filed a cross-appeal to challenge the aspect of the verdict which held that they failed to prove allegation of over-voting raised in their petition.

At the Wednesday’s hearing of the appeals on Wednesday, Oyetola’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the Court of Appeal to uphold his client’s appeal and nullify the majority judgment of the tribunal.

He argued that Justice Obiorah, who wrote the lead majority judgment, was absent from the tribunal’s proceedings of February 6, 2019.

The senior lawyer maintained that Justice Obiorah’s non-signing of the day’s proceedings was sufficient evidence that he was absent from the proceedings.

Citing various Supreme Court judgments to back his argument, Olanipekun said Justice Obiorah’s presence or otherwise “goes to the root of fair hearing.”

“Adjudication cannot be done by proxy,” Olanipekun said.

He added that contrary to the claim by the counsel for Adeleke and the PDP, there was no conflict in the tribunal’s record, as it was clear from the record that Justice Obiorah was absent from the proceedings of February 6, 2019.

Olanipekun also maintained that the deduction of results said to have been affected by non-compliance and the declaration of Adeleke as the winner by the tribunal clearly violated the provision of section 140(2) of the Electoral Act, which, according to him, only empowers an election tribunal to order a re-run when allegation of substantial non-compliance of the Electoral Act is proved.

Responding, the lawyer representing both the PDP and Adeleke, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), urged the tribunal to dismiss the appeal and uphold the majority judgment of the tribunal.

On the issue of the absence of Justice Obiorah on the February 6, 2019 proceedings of the tribunal, Ikpeazu said there was a conflict in the record of the tribunal given the fact that the list of judges who sat that day contained Justice Obiorah’s name, but only that  the judge did not sign the proceedings.

He noted that the appellants ought to have filed an affidavit alleging that the judge was absent from the proceedings and have the same affidavit served on the judge so that he could respond to the allegation.

Ikpeazu said, “Looking at the totality of the record, there is a conflict and it can only be settled through an affidavit.”

He said for the Court of Appeal to come to a conclusion that the judge was absent; the judge must be heard first.

He added that in the event that the judge was truly absent at the proceedings during which only two witnesses testified compared to the over 100 witnesses that testified during the entire proceedings, that alone could not amount to a nullification of the totality of the judgment read by the judge.

Ikpeazu also defended the majority judgment’s deduction of the affected votes and the tribunal’s declaration of Adeleke the winner on the grounds that the section 140(2) of the Electoral Act cited by Olanipekun had been struck down by Justice Gabriel Kolawole (now of the Court of Appeal) who was then sitting as a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Arguing the APC’s appeal, the party’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), said the majority judgment was wrong.

He said the petition filed before the tribunal was incompetent as it only sought an order declaring the petitioners winner based on the September 22, 2018 poll with the exclusion of the supplementary poll.

Olujinmi also faulted the cancellation of results of the September 22, 2018 election in 17 polling units on the grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

He added that the petitioners only complained of non-compliance in respect of the supplementary poll of September 27, 2018 but the tribunal, in its majority judgment, misdirected the complaints against the election held in the 17 polling units on September 22, 2018.

Olujinmi also noted that the judgment held that the uncertified result sheets tendered by the petitioners were merely dumped on the tribunal without linking them to the case, yet the majority members went on to rely on the said dumped result sheets to deduct the results recorded by both the APC and the PDP in the 17 polling units.

INEC’s lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN), also urged the Court of Appeal to set aside the majority judgment on the grounds that in one breath, it held that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of over-voting and non-accreditation of voters, yet in another breath, went on to nullify the election in 17 polling units on the basis of “non-compliance.”

Ali said the petitioners’ witnesses admitted during trial that the non-compliance in the form of failure of the electoral officers to fill some columns on result sheets accounting for accreditation of voters and ballot paper usage in the 17 polling units did not affect the votes recorded for the various parties in the polling units.

He added that by virtue of section 138 of the Electoral Act, the non-filling of the columns on the result sheets did not amount to a substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act and never envisaged to be part of possible grounds of appeal.

In his responses to Olujinmi and Ali, Ikpeazu maintained that his clients, having “satisfied the constitutional threshold after the September 22, 2018 election, there was no reason why INEC should not have declared them the winner.”

He said his clients only waited for the supplementary election to be concluded since they could only file a petition after INEC must have announced the winner of the poll, contending that his clients’ petition was therefore not rendered incompetent for anchoring his prayers on only the September 22, 2018 election.

Ikpeazu also insisted that the non-filling of some columns of the result sheets went to the root of the transparency of the entire electoral process.

Mr Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), argued Adeleke and the PDP’s cross-appeal, which was also opposed by the individual lawyers representing Oyetola, the APC and INEC.

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Buhari Reads New Riot Act to Ministers, Heads of Agencies, Others on Foreign Travel

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In a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of resources of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved for immediate implementation, additional cost saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly, in the area of official travels.

According to a statement issued by the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation Wednesday, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are now required to submit their Yearly Travel Plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.

They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan, from the appropriate quarters.

On the nature and frequency of travels, the statement said, all public funded travels (local and foreign) must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence.

”In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of the country. Except with the express approval of Mr. President, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Chief Executive Officers and Directors are restricted to not more than two (2) foreign travels in a quarter.”

When a Minister is at the head of an official delegation, according to the statement, the size of such delegation shall not exceed four including the relevant Director, Schedule Officer and one Aide of the Minister.

”Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three.”

For Class of Air Travels, President Buhari approved that Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants to the President, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments and Chief Executive Officers of Parastatals who are entitled would continue to fly Business Class while other categories of Public Officers are to travel on Economy Class.

Also, travel days will no longer attract payment of Estacode Allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding, the statement added.

”The Auditor-General of the Federation has been directed to treat all expenditures that contravene these guidelines as ineligible.”

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Police Uncover Another Torture Centre with 300 Inmates in Buhari’s Hometown, Daura

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The Police in Katsina State on Monday arrested the owner of a rehabilitation centre in Daura where over 300 inmates were being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Some of the teachers were also said to have sexually molested the inmates at the centre owned by Mallam Bello Maialmajri.

The 78-year-old cleric was arrested alongside two other men, whose names were not disclosed.

Last month, the police in Kaduna State rescued over 300 boys from an Islamic school, where they were allegedly chained,   sexually abused and tortured.

The  Katsina State   Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba, who led the operation at about  1pm, expressed shock at the new discovery.

The centre is located at Nasarawa Quarters,  in the   Sabongari area of  Daura.

Daura is President Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown.

After inspecting the rehabilitation centre, Buba ordered the  Daura Divisional Police Officer, ASP M.O.Wakili,  cordon off the centre.

The CP  said, “We learnt that the inmates here are over 300.  The inmates revolted yesterday (Sunday) because of the inhuman treatment they were being subjected to.

“Some of the inmates escaped while the ones you are seeing, about 60,  stayed back.

“The inmates are from various parts of Nigeria, including Katsina,  as well as from  Niger Republic. I will meet with the Emir of Daura and Governor Aminu Masari on the issue. We will do the profiling of the remaining inmates  to determine where they are from and we will thereafter appeal to their parents and their  guardians to come and collect them.”

He added, “As you heard from the inmates, apart from being subjected to inhuman treatment, some of their so-called teachers practised homosexual acts with them. Although the teachers escaped when my men came here after  the inmates revolted, we shall get all of them and they would face the full wrath of the law.

“From what I have seen here, the old man, who is the owner of this place and who is over 78 years old, does not have  the capacity  and facilities to run this place again.”

One of the inmates,  Abubakar Saminu,16, from Yobe State said his parents brought him to the centre because he was always stealing.

He said,”My parents brought me here because they believed I  would be cured of my stealing problem.  But they would beat us, starve us and subject us to inhuman treatment here.”

It was learnt that Maialmajri had already  handed  the running of the centre  to his son, Umar, who reportedly escaped when  police arrived.

The Emir of Daura,  Dr . Umar Farouq,  who spoke in Hausa,   said, “We in Daura will not support any act of lawlessness. We want the law to take its  course.”

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Charges Against Sowore, Mockery of Justice System – SERAP

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Anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has urged the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to enter a nolle prosequi to terminate the charges filed against the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, alias Mandate.

In an open letter on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, SERAP said the charges which centre on insulting President Muhammadu Buhari would only make a mockery of the Nigerian criminal justice system.

SERAP advised Malami to activate his power of nolle prosequi under Section 174 of the constitution to terminate the charges against Sowore and Mandate “and several other similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.”

SERAP said, “Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom.

“These cases are persecution and not prosecution. As a guardian of the public interest, you (Malami) have a role to end this travesty now, and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.

“These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicisation of judiciary. This will be bad for everyone – ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power, as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power/in opposition.”

SERAP said while the Federal Government had the responsibility to prevent and prosecute criminal offences, it ought to do so lawfully, and in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law.

Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Solomon Okedara, described Section 24(1) of the Cybercrime Act under which Sowore was charged with insulting the President as “repressive, oppressive and largely unconstitutional.”

Okedara said, “In fact, I am of the opinion that proceeding with such a charge particularly when the person allegedly insulted is the President will rather paint the image of the President and the country in bad light before the comity of nations.

“This is aside the fact that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act does not meet the requirement of permissible restriction to freedom of expression. Having worked on the Cybercrime Act and indeed Section 24 both as a practitioner and researcher, it is clear that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act is indeed an insult to our hard-earned democracy and same does not deserve a place in our laws.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow himself to be embarrassed Malami against Sowore.

Adeniran, who described the charges against Sowore as trumped-up and face-saving, argued that it was obvious that government had no grounds to continue to hold Sowore.

The CACOL chairman said this in a Facebook post on Sunday.

He said, “FG has no good reason to hold Sowore anymore; the trumped-up charges are (a) face-saving strategy with no substance!

“President Buhari, please don’t allow Malami to embarrass you any further. Order Sowore’s immediate release and damn it!”

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