February 24, 2009

Ondo guber: Tears of joy as Mimiko gets final judgment

Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of Dr. Rahman Olusegun Mimiko as the Court of Appeal on Monday in Benin affirmed the decision of the lower tribunal, which on July 25, 2008 declared him winner of the April 14, 2007 governorship election in Ondo State.

In dismissing all the 12 grounds of appeal filed by the appellant and erstwhile governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, the court in a unanimous decision held that Dr. Mimiko, having satisfied sections 21 and 39 of the Electoral Act 2006 “is hereby declared duly elected Governor of Ondo State.

“The appeal is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the tribunal is hereby affirmed,” the court held in its judgment delivered by its President, Justice Umaru Abdullahi.
According to the Court of Appeal, Dr. Mimiko of the Labour Party won the election with 195,030 votes as against 138,155 votes scored by Dr. Agagu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The court held that Dr. Mimiko scored 25 per cent of the votes in 12 out of the 18 local governments in the state.

The court urged the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to learn to be neutral in electoral cases, just as it condemned the attitude of the Nigerian Police and the Army in joining the fray.
The court held that the appellants were wrong to have raised the issue that Dr Mimiko’s petition was not competition and that it should be struck out at the appeal state, stressing that the appropriate place to have raised the issue was the lower tribunal where the matter was tried.

On the non-joinder of the police and the electoral officers which the appellants contended was fatal to Dr Mimiko’s petition, the Court of Appeal held that where INEC is a party in electoral matter, the non-joinder of any of its agents would not have any effect on the petition, adding that joining of the police and other agents alleged to have committed electoral fraud was not necessary, as the Electoral Act 2006 was distinct from the 2002 Electoral Act which required such joinder.

The court also held that the argument of the appellants’ counsel that the tribunal sorted and counted the ballot papers on its own without involving the parties was untenable as records of the lower tribunal showed that the counting was carried out and witnessed by agents of all parties in the case.
It held further that the allegations of election rigging made by the petitioner against Dr. Agagu and the PDP was proved by a reply in a letter by the Secretary to the Ondo State Government, accepting to pay compensation to a 300-level student of the University of Ibadan who was killed while rigging election
The Court of Appeal, while okaying the lower tribunal’s decision to cancel election results in some units and wards on the grounds of irregularities and non-voting, held that the appellants’ argument that the election did not comply substantially with the 2006 Electoral Act was unmeritorious and therefore resolved in favour of the petitioner.

While holding that the appellants’ failure to produce forms EC8A was fatal to their case, the court further held that the appellants’ objection to the use of charts was unmeritorious, as the appellants ant respondents made the use of charts cornerstone of their case.
Reacting to the judgment, lead counsel to Dr. Agagu, Chief Lateef Fagbemi [SAN] thanked the justices for their effort.

On his part, lead counsel to Dr. Mimiko, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) described the judgment as a demonstration of the wishes of the people through the ballot box.
“When you delivered the Oshiomhole judgment, I said it is the best. This judgment is the very best of the very best. It has become the catechism of all judicial authorities. You have carried out a revolution but you might not know. It is redemption of our democracy. The Court of Appeal has never been greater than it is today,” he said.

Replying, Justice Abdullahi commended the counsel for their hardwork, saying that the case was a very complex case, even as he also commended his colleagues on the bench.
Soon after the judgment was given, supporters of Dr. Mimiko went into wild jubilation within the court premises
In his reaction at the Government House, Benin, Dr. Mimiko said nobody should assume that he could steal the peoples vote and mandate with impunity and assured the people of Ondo State that their hope would not be dashed.

On his part, Governor Oshiomhole of Edo State said “we in Edo State are privileged to be part of this history. I thank God for the wonderful things He has done for our country when some sections of the political class have continued to mess up the country,” adding that the judiciary has restored those votes the people of Ondo gave to the winner.

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