Despite the indictment of the controversial chairman, Ede North Local Government Area of Osun State,
Honoruable Kazeem Akinleye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over financial misconduct when he was a councillor, the Local Government Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Osogbo on Monday upheld the December 15, 2007 election of the council boss.
The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) chairmanship candidate, Alhaji Ismail Adeniyi and his vice, Mr Francis Alabi filed a petition against the controversial election of the council boss and his deputy, Adeleke Sikiriu, claiming that neither the chairman and his vice was qualified to contest the polls.
The petitioners prayed the court to nullify the election and declare them the validly-elected chairman and vice chairman of the council area on the ground that the first respondent (chairman) had been indicted of financial misconduct when he was a councillor in the council area by the office of the Auditor-General for Local Governments in Osun State.
The petitioners further claimed that the second respondent (vice chairman) was not qualified to contest the election, arguing that the vice-chairman did not register in his unit, where he claimed to have hailed from.
Adeniyi and Alabi further explained in the petition that the election was marred with irregularities and malpractices, a situation that they said denied them victory at the election.
The ANPP candidates however prayed the court to declare the election of the controversial chairman and his deputy null and void; and declared them (Adeniyi and Alabi) as the validly elected candidates at the polls.
In their reply to the petition, the first and second respondents claimed that they were nominated and cleared by the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSSIEC), having applied in compliance with the state electoral law, claiming that they were qualified to contest the election.
Other respondents in the petition, OSSIEC, the Chief Electoral Officer; Ede North Local Government Council area and eight others also opposed the petition, denying all the allegations of the petitioners.
At the hearing of the petition, the petitioner called seven witnesses, the first and second respondents called three witnesses, while other respondents called none.
One of the witnesses called by the petitioner, who was on subpoena testified on the indictment of the council boss and tendered the report of the indictment, which was admitted as exhibit by the tribunal.
While delivering judgment on Monday, Justice O.D. Afolabi-led panel admitted that a document was tendered to substantiate the claim of the indictment of the council boss.
The panel chairman held that he lacked jurisdiction over the matter of the indictment, arguing that no-evidence was laid before the court to the effect that the first respondent had been challenged before an appropriate court for such alleged criminal offence.
On the vice chairman, the court admitted that a document was tendered by the petitioner to the effect that the second respondent did not formally register in his polling centre, but his name was only written with biro in the voter’s register.
The court held that since the document had been certified, it considered that the second respondent properly registered for the election in his unit.
The tribunal further held that the petitioners had failed to discharge burden of proof placed on them by law, arguing that they have not proven the allegation of irregularities and malpractices as claimed in the petition.
It however dismissed the petition accordingly.
Reacting to the judgment, Adeniyi urged his supporters not to panic, saying that he would appeal the judgment.
The ANPP candidate said that the judgment was not in any way acceptable to him, saying that justice has not been done to the matter.
He said that he had to proved the alleged non-qualification of the first and second respondents with the backing of necessary documents, arguing that the panel deliberately ignored the evidence.
“In the history of Nigeria, this is the first time I will be hearing that somebody who does not register was being voted for. The judgment is unacceptable to me and the people of Ede North Local government council area generally,” he said.
By KAZEEM MOHAMMED