Posted by By AKEEB ALARAPE, Ibadan on
The legal battle embarked upon by the erstwhile Governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasidi Ladoja to reclaim his mandate took a new twist
• New Appeal Court panel takes over case
The legal battle embarked upon by the erstwhile Governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasidi Ladoja to reclaim his mandate took a new twist, Tuesday, as loyalists of his opponents, openly threatened to deal with the legal team of the ex-governor, led by the former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).
Also, a new set of judges, led by Justices J.O. Ogebe, appeared as members of the constitutional panel constituted by the president of the Court of Appeal to decide the case, yesterday. The new panel replaced the one initially led by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umar Abdullai.
Daily Sun learnt from one of the counsel that the Abdullai panel disqualified itself from further presiding over the matter after an unsubstantiated allegation that they have been induced by one of the parties involved in the case.
The new panel consists of Justices J.O. Ogebe, K.B. Akaohs, C.M. Chukwuma-Eneh, C.B. Ogunbiyi and J. Mikailu.
After a four-hour sitting, the court adjourned sine dine, promising to communicate the date of its ruling to all the parties involved in the matter.
The supporters’ opponents were overheard as they moved towards the senior lawyers, after the court session, saying ‘we will beat you up even in the presence of the police and nothing will happen.”
Recounting the experience to journalists, Olanipekun stated: “The people nearly attacked us. The way they surged towards us and threatened to beat us was quite unexpected. In fact they attempted to attack us, but I imagine what could have informed their action.
“We are doing our job as lawyers. Even, you can see this is one of their lawyers in our midst (pointing to Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN). He himself felt embarrassed at their action.”
Fagbemi corroborated Olanipekun’s statement, saying; “Yes, they nearly attacked us. This is quite embarrassing. But the height of my disappointment was that no arrest was made by the police. Why? Why should people descend so low as this. We are doing our job, but I am disappointed at the action of the miscreants.”
Fagbemi, disassociated his clients from the attack, putting the blame on the miscreants that followed them to the court.
Despite the tight security provided within and outside the court premises, the suspected hoodlums also advanced towards known supporters of Ladoja, in a bid to attack them before security operatives came to checkmate them. But they did not leave until they dropped their message: ‘Don’t leave the court premises’.
At the resumed sitting of the court yesterday, after its last sitting in June, Justice Ogebe, advised all parties involved in the matter an hour each to argue their brief, which, he said, members of the panel had read.
In their separate submissions, Olanipekun, representing the appellant plaintiffs and Yusuf Ali, representing Ladoja, as a joined party, urged the appellate court to vacate the judgment of Justice John Ige, delivered on 28 December 2005 where he declined jurisdiction in the impeachment process against Ladoja. They both argued that Section 188, subsection 10 of the 1999 Constitution cannot be excised from Section 188 subsection 1 to 9.
Ali further added that there was no compliance with all the provisions of Section 188 of the constitution in the impeachment of Ladoja, urging the court to assume the powers of the lower court and declare the impeachment null and void.
In defence, counsel to respondent plaintiff, Mr. Christopher Ayanlaja (SAN) stated that the lower court did not err in its decision by declining jurisdiction, saying that jurisdiction can be ousted whether or not Section 188 subsection 1 to 9 were complied with.
A dramatic aspect was, however, introduced to the court sitting when an attempt by one of the counsel representing the Oyo State House of Assembly, Mr Adeniyi Ajewole decided to present his brief contrary to his earlier position at the lower court where he was part of the plaintiffs.
On grabbing the microphone, the lead judge, Ogebe, demanded to know his interest in the case having identified himself with the plaintiffs at the lower court and his new claim as plaintiff/respondent.
“I find it very strange to see you as a plaintiff in the lower court but now a plaintiff/respondent at the appellate court. You are doing exact opposite of what you were in the lower court”, Ogebe stated.
After some mumblings, Ajewole explained that the fault was not his but that of the plaintiff, who joined him without his consent. But when asked by Justice K.B. Akaohs, why he did not complain then, Ajewole urged the court to use its discretion. He was subsequently denied the opportunity to address the court and later took his seat.
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