Law News
Osun poll: APC rejects new tribunal chairman

THE All Progressives Congress,  APC, in Osun State, yesterday asked the new chairman of the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Osogbo, Justice Sulaiman Ambrusa, at his maiden sitting, to disqualify himself from presiding over proceedings  of the tribunal, saying that the party had no confidence in him.

This came as the tribunal granted the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, order of substituted service to paste notice of petition on the walls of Oke Fia Government House, where Governor Rauf Aregbesola resides.

At its sitting, lead counsel to APC, Mr. Kunle Adegoke, informed the tribunal that he had petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, seeking removal of Justice Ambrusa.
Justice I. M. Bako had earlier been removed as chairman of the tribunal following a petition by one of the parties.

Mr. Adegoke told the tribunal that his clients had petitioned NJC against the chairman of the Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Ambrusa questioning his propriety of presiding at the tribunal’s proceedings.

According to him, “there is a serious issue of propriety of Your Lordship in being the head of this tribunal. There are certain fundamental issues that must be addressed in the petition against you at the NJC. If a party is expressing lack of confidence in a judge, the requirement is that such judge should step aside from handling the case.”

Responding, the chairman of the tribunal said “I am ready to step down. I did not put myself here. Anybody can accuse anybody. I have not seen the copy of the petition against me. There should be decorum. Since you have written the NJC, I would be served a copy. By law, it is only the NJC that can act on your application.”

Another member of the three-man tribunal, Justice Benson Ogbwu while addressing Mr. Adegoke, said, “you are pushing the chairman to disqualify himself. This is a panel duly constituted. Why can’t you wait for the NJC to act? If we disqualify ourselves, what would happen to the petitions you filed?

Before the tribunal granted the PDP order of substituted service to paste notice of petition on the wall of Oke Fia Government House, where Governor Rauf Aregbesola resides, the party had alleged that the first respondent (Aregbesola) had been evading service of court processes by instructing his aides and security details not  to receive any document from the tribunal’s bailiff.

Aregbesola, the candidate of APC was declared winner of the August 9, 2014 gubernatorial election with 394,684 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, who polled 292,747 votes.

Granting the order of substituted service, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ambrusa said “having considered the paragraph 8 of the PDP’s counsel’s application,   Mr. Afolabi Fashanu, governor Aregebesola should be served the copy of the petition by pasting same on the walls of the Government House and Governor’s Office at the state secretariat.”

He added, “this case must be prosecuted. The petition should not be one-sided. If you can’t paste it, come tomorrow for another order. How should somebody evade or run away from being served and why should the security officials refuse to cooperate with the tribunal’s  bailiff to serve the governor?”

However, one of the lawyers in the legal team of the APC, Wale Afolabi, who is also the state Commissioner for Justice, assured that the PDP would be allowed to paste the petition, saying that “if they want to paste the petition notice, they can paste it. Nobody would disallow them”.

Meanwhile, the tribunal yesterday reserved ruling on the prayers of the APC to set aside the order earlier granted for the inspection of election materials at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office till today.

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