Osun Gov Appeal Panel: HURIWA, APC disagree over panel membership

The Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Friday sharply disagreed on an alleged inclusion of an indigene of Osun State on the election Appeal panel to hear the state’s governorship election case.

HURIWA had kicked against the alleged inclusion of Justice Olubunmi Oyewole as a member of the Appeal Panel on Osun governorship petition, describing the judge as an interested party and a friend of the appellant.

However, the Osun State chapter of the APC through its spokesman, Kunle Oyatomi, told Saturday Tribune that removal of Oyewole from the panel as being canvassed by the group won’t save the PDP from an impending loss at the Appeal court.

Oyatomi described the argument of the group as pedestrian, saying “removing Oyewole cannot give favourable judgment to the PDP at the Court of Appeal.”

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He stated “these people don’t have any form of decency. If at all Justice Oyewole is included among the judges, he is there to carry out his constitutional duty as a judge. Their argument is too pedestrian and lack basis.”

“They did the same thing when the election petition tribunal was constituted  to adjudicate over the last year governorship poll. They are now at it again”, Oyatomi remarked.

In a petition sent to the President of the Appeal Court on Thursday and signed by Emmanuel Onwubiko and Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA called for the removal of the judge from the panel if already included in the five-man-team.

The petition reads: “We write as a human rights group that has consistently advocated for equity, fairness and fair hearing within the polity to bring to your attention a widely circulating report among members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Osun State and beyond that they have imputed their strong ally and an interested party, Justice Oyewole, as a judge on the Osun Appeal Panel.

“Many top APC leaders are bragging and boasting in Osun right now that they have pocketed the panel by having an ally of the appellant, Gboyega Oyetola, as a panel member and this is beginning to raise tensions amongst the populace.

“We had conducted a search on who the said judge is and we found out many compromising facts that confirmed that Justice Oyewole as an interested party should not, for the sake of justice and equity, be on the panel.

“They may have hidden the indicting facts from you but we have a duty to bring them to your attention to assist the temple of justice under your esteemed leadership.

“Justice Oyewole is a godson of Chief Bisi Akande, the former National Chairman of APC; they are from the same town, Ila Orangun. Justice Oyewole was a judge of Lagos State High Court during Aregbesola’s tenure as governor of Osun State.

“When there was a vacancy in the Chief Justice of Osun State under Aregbesola, the governor pushed to import and elevate him above his senior to be made the state Chief Judge in Osun State. The state erupted in protestations against imposing a judge serving outside the state on his seniors in another state as the head of judiciary forcing the governor to reconsider his plot.

“The arrowhead of the movement to force Oyewole on the state as Chief Judge then was the appellant who was then the Chief of Staff of Rauf Aregbesola.

“When the plot failed because of mass resistance of Osun people, Aregbesola and the appellant succeeded in using Osun slot to get Justice Oyewole elevated to the Court of Appeal again above his peers and seniors.

“Since the commencement of the Osun governorship petition hearing, the judge has been fingered as the contact person for Gboyega Oyetola. APC members in the state are not tired of declaring that they have their man at the Appeal court”.

The petition stressed that it is troubling that APC members in the state are boasting that their man is on the appeal panel saying: “My Lord will not allow a man to sit in a matter in which he is an interested party.

“Osun is currently in a state of fragile peace with the Judiciary as their last hope of getting justice. The controversial Osun election still remains a matter of national and international interest. The whole world is watching.

“We are aware of the riot act you read out to chairmen and members of election tribunals early this year. We are in the know of your insistence that justice must be done without fear or favour. We are also conscious of your pedigree and antecedent as an incorruptible judge and leader of justice”.

Among others, the petitioners urged the Appeal Court President to resist the pressure to compromise the integrity of the Appeal panel for the Osun Governorship Election saying the peace in Osun State should not be compromised.

It also called for the removal of the name of Justice Oyewole from the list of the panel considering the weight of evidence adduced in paragraph 3 of the petition saying: “No Judge from Osun State or with affinity with the state should serve on the panel to ensure.”

However, a source close to Justice Oyewole who spoke with Saturday Tribune, described as untrue and idle the report that he had been slated for Osun Appeal panel.

The source said he could not have been nominated for Osun Appeal panel having come from the state.

“Besides, he is on an appeal panel in the East and cannot sit on two matters at the same time,” the source said.

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