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Oyo state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has requested that the state Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) postpone the intended local government elections till 7th day of August, 2021 following the recent decision of the Supreme Court which declared the illegally sacked council bosses as the lawfully elected local government chairmen.
Oyo APC made the request in a letter written to the OYSIEC Chairman, Aare Isiaka Abiola Olagunju SAN and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, dated 10th May; 2021 and received by the duo yesterday (11th May, 2021).
Meanwhile, OYSIEC, through its Chairman, Olagunju, had maintained that there was no plan or justification for the commission to postpone the local council election from May 22, 2021 to a later date.
But, the APC, in a letter written to OYSIEC by its solicitors and signed by Olamiji Martins noted that the matter instituted by Oyo ALGON lasted for 2 years from the High Court of Justice to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He argued that within the 2 years legal debacle, it wouldn’t have been legally right for the APC and indeed Oyo ALGON to have jettisoned the pending court matter and shift base to the Commission’s side when the illegally sacked council chairmen had specifically prayed the Court to restrain OYSIEC from conducting the said election.
Olamiji Martins, in the letter, also observed that It would have amounted to approbating and reprobating simultaneously, maintaining that in the spirit of the laws of the land, it was only legal for Oyo APC and indeed Oyo ALGON to desist from rendering nugatory the possible orders of the court.
In order to avoid constitutional crises and unsolicited legal tussles, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state however opined that it is better in the spirit of democracy and wider participation which the commission had earlier promised when it visited the party office at Oke-Ado on 7th January 2021, to postpone the election and allow the party conduct its affairs in readiness to participate in the election.
“It does not allude to commonsense that our client should have conducted primary elections in readiness for your Commission’s election when its matter against your Commission was before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. That would have amounted to a contemptuous and ridiculous act”, the letter said.
Contained in the letter, which was made available to our correspondent from impeccable source, Oyo APC recalled, “in 2018 the body of duly elected local government Chairmen and Councillors popularly referred to as ALGON took the Oyo State Government and your Commission to the Oyo State High Court of Justice in suit number I/347/2019. When judgment was entered in favour of ALGON by My Lord, the Honourable Justice A. A. Aderemi restraining your Commission from conducting elections into the Local Governments in Oyo State, the Oyo State Government and your humble Commission approached the Court of Appeal. At the Court of Appeal, judgment was entered in favour of Oyo State Government and your Commission. Dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal judgment, the matter went to the apex court of the land: the Supreme Court.
“Recall also that the Supreme Court of Nigeria reserved judgment in the case between ALGON and your Commission and others on February 10, 2021 for the judgment to be read on 7th May, 2021. It was when the matter was before the highest Court of the land that your Commission started in earnest to prepare to conduct the elections into Chairmanship and Councillorship positions into the 33 local government areas in the state. When your Commission visited our client on 7th January 2021, you implored our client to participate in the Local Government election. Our client informed you that as a law abiding party, it would rather wait till the matter at the Supreme Court in suit number SC556/2020 is properly determined.
“However, it is instructive to note that after your appointment in September 2019, your commission did not take any concrete step to start the electioneering process immediately and this is largely due to the fact that your Commission and indeed the Oyo State Government had appealed the High Court judgment of Justice A. A. Aderemi delivered in suit number I/347/2019 restraining your Commission from conducting election and the matter heard by the Court of Appeal, Ibadan in suit number CA/IB/300/2019. Your Commission did not do anything because part of the reliefs granted in favour of ALGON in the judgment was an order of injunction restraining your Commission from conducting election into the office of the Chairman and Councillors of all or any of the 33 Local Government Councils and 35 Local Council Development Areas in Oyo State.
It continued, “As soon as judgment was delivered in your Commission’s favour by the Court of Appeal on 15th July, 2020 and the judgment of the High Court set aside, your Commission suddenly found its voice and from September 2020, your Commission started visiting political parties for parleys and talks despite the fact that ALGON had appealed the judgment and approached the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal. True, the Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and declared the Appellants as the lawfully elected Local Government Chairmen.
“The question now is: would it not defeat the essence of the appeal at the Supreme Court should ALGON have joined your Commission in its pre-election arrangements against the doctrine of lis pendens? As a senior lawyer, you are aware of the provision of the law that once a matter has been appealed, all parties are expected to stay put and not take any step that will overreach the court and parties to the suit. Your Commission did not. ALGON won at the High Court, your Commission won at the Court of Appeal and the matter went to Supreme Court. Unfortunately, your Commission felt it could make do with the Court of Appeal judgment and go ahead to start preparation to conduct the election when in essence the 3 cases followed a single streak. Your Commission was meant to have waited, in deference to the rule of law, before taking any step to conduct any election whatsoever. It did not.”
“Learned Silk, our client had no reason to preempt the Supreme Court and had to exercise caution in waiting till the judgment is delivered in the case. It is actually a void act and outrightly unlawful for any party to a suit to approbate and reprobate at the same time. This has been made notorious by judicial pronouncements of our Law Lords. Of reference is the Supreme Court’s decided case of NASKO v. BELLO (2020) LPELR-52530 (SC)
“Learned Silk, it would have amounted to one having his cake and then eating it if our client had participated in the processes building up to the purported election your Commission is planning to conduct by 22nd May, 2021 when it had taken your Commission before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The question is: what would have happened if the Supreme Court had ordered members of ALGON back to their offices? This mindset was borne out of the fact that the Supreme Court being so empowered, could have made a consequential order pursuant to its extant Court Rules, Laws, Practice Directions and Procedures.
“Basically because the ALGON members are also part of our client, and basically because they are the principal Appellants in the case which was determined at the Supreme Court last Friday, it would have amounted to an overreaching act and judicial travesty if after taking your Commission to court, they still participate in your Commission’s election build-up processes. That would have amounted to an overt illegality and an overreaching act based on the imperishable dictum of the revered Niki Tobi JSC in the case of NIWA v. SPDC (2008) LPELR-1963(SC).
“The wait by ALGON is actually legal and within the ambits of the law. This has found expression in the case of OKOYE v. INEC (2010) LPELR-4726 (CA)
“You had had the course, at various fora, to say that it is the desire of your Commission not to make its personal interests clash with the general interests of the people and make sure that concerted efforts would be made to change the perception of the public on forms of conducting local government elections over the years to enhance massive participation during the poll. Mr. Chairman, your integrity is now been appealed to as our client is holding strongly to your words of non-partisanship in the matter. Your Commission stands nothing to lose if it postpones this election and if your Commission doesn’t use its power as a punitive weight and bring same to bear on our client.
“Our client informed us that it is willing to participate in the election if your Commission is willing to allow reason to prevail and if your Commission postpones the elections till August 2021 when our client would have done all its internal assignments in readiness to participate in the local government elections.
“The decision – whether to postpone the election or not – lies in your Commission’s womb and we know actually that whichever way your Commission decide to follow, your Commission has nothing to lose. However, we implore your Commission to allow for the postponement as our client is a respecter of the rule of law and a strict adherent to the doctrine of lis pendens and wouldn’t flout the due process of law under any guise. Now that the Supreme Court has laid the ALGON matter to rest, we humbly implore your Commission to postpone the election till 7th August, 2021 so that our client can prepare itself to participate in it”, the letter concluded.
However, as of press time, efforts made by Pacesetter reporter to reach the Oyo APC acting Publicity Secretary, Dr. Abdul-Azeez Olatunde via his cellphone number for comments were unsuccessful.