• It’s not true, says Appeal Court

Adedayo Akinwale and Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has rejected the inclusion of Justice Joseph Oyewole as a member of the Osun State Governorship Election Appeal Tribunal.
The main opposition party said it has already petitioned the President of the Court of Appeal, objecting to the inclusion of Justice Oyewole in the appeal panel based on the clear likelihood of his being biased against the person of Senator Ademola Adeleke and the PDP, under which he contested the 2018 Osun State governorship election.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, while addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, said the position of the party was predicated on the fact that Justice Oyewole has strong connections with the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is an interested party in the appeal.
He stated: “As a party, we do not have confidence in Hon. Justice J.O.K Oyewole. So the PDP vehemently objects to his inclusion, as he is likely to be biased against our party and our candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke.

“The PDP, therefore, demands that the President of the Court of Appeal immediately replace Hon. Justice J.O.K Oyewole with another justice of the Court of Appeal, without any affiliation with Osun State, out of the over 90 eminent justices of the Court of Appeal.
“Our party and candidate hold that justice must not only be done, but also manifestly seen to be done in this matter. Indeed, an insistence on Hon. Justice J.O.K Oyewole’s inclusion in the appeal panel may confirm our fears that his name could have been deliberately included so that he can carry out a special assignment against our candidate and the party in the appeal.”

Ologbondiyan explained that Justice Oyewole (JCA) is an indigene of Osun State and he had served as a High Court judge of Lagos State and had thus served under the administration of Senator Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the APC while he was the governor of Lagos State.
He stressed that when the seat of the Chief Judge of Osun State became vacant, some years back, upon the retirement of Justice G.O Ojo, Tinubu insisted on having his anointed candidate, Oyewole, on the judiciary of Osun State at all cost.

Ologbondiyan noted: “It will be recalled that it took the courageous intervention of the then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Muktar, to prevail that the most senior judge of Osun State judiciary should be so appointed.
“When a seat became vacant at the Court of Appeal, the name of Hon. Justice Oyewole was pushed forward by Senator Tinubu, using the slot of Osun State and thus, Justice Oyewole became Justice of the Court of Appeal.”

The party spokesman said it was, therefore, a fact known to the party and members of the public that Oyewole has a strong connection with the APC and its leader, Tinubu, and as such he should not sit as a panel member for a governorship election dispute between the PDP and the APC.

According to PDP, “Moreover, Hon. Justice J.O.K Oyewole is from Osun State. The instant appeal is over the decision of the Osun State Governorship Tribunal. Given his connections with the APC, it will be most unsafe to allow Hon. Justice J.O.K Oyewole to sit on the appeal panel. We are not assured that justice will be done with Hon. Justice J.O.K Oyewole as a member of the panel.”

It’s Not True, Says Appeal Court

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Abuja division last night denied the membership of Justice Joseph Oyewole in the panel hearing the case of Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Court of Appeal Abuja.
Oyetola and APC are challenging the decision of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which sacked Oyetola from office.

The tribunal, in a split decision of two-to-one in its March 22, 2019 judgment, voided the victory of Oyetola and the APC in last year’s Osun governorship election.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal, Oyetola and the APC had approached the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision.
However as the Court of Appeal schedule April 24, for hearing of the appeal, a lawyer and Chairman of the Ilesa branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr. Kanmi Ajibola, protested the alleged membership of Justice Olubunmi Oyewole in the three-member panel to hear the appeal on alleged bias.

Ajibola in a letter dated April 18, 2019 to the President, Court of Appeal, Abuja, insisted that Justice Oyewole is a benefactor of the appellants and “will find it difficult to dispense justice on the hard matter of Laws and facts of this appeal.”

According to him he had it on good authority that Justice Oyewole was part of the team to hear the appeal.
Similarly a group, the Osun Professional Alliance in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its Coordinator, Mr. Sanusi Adelegan, warned members of the panel against compromising the appeal.

He said: “The President of the Appeal Court had warned that any panel member who compromised will have himself/herself to blame. She is also warned against yielding to influence peddlers and those hell bent on truncating the wheel of justice.”
Reacting, the appellate court in a statement issued by its Media Officer, Ms. Saadatu Kachalla, yesterday in Abuja dismissed the claims, adding that the Court of Appeal takes the issue of its integrity highly and would not do anything to jeopardize it.

It said: “Hon. Justice Joseph Oyewole, Justice of the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, an industrious son of the Osun State, is not a Member of the Osun Governorship Election Appeal Tribunal set up by the President of the Court of Appeal, who had earlier said that the court must always put her integrity on the front burner.

“The members of the public are therefore advised not to be misguided by desperate and jittery individuals whose action is to heat up the polity.
“Time has changed, and it is better for us to change with time. The era of fake news is over.”
Meanwhile petitions so far received against the conduct of the 2019 general election has risen to 766 as at April 16 from 736 in April 4, the tribunal has disclosed.

The new figure was released in a statement by the Deputy Chief Registrar, Election Petition Tribunal, Court of Appeal, Mrs. Rabi Abdulazeez.
The breakdown shows: House of Representatives election – 101; Senate – 205; State House of Assembly – 402 and Presidential – 4.
The statement in addition revealed that 77 election petitions tribunal panels have been set up by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to hear the matters.