Oyetola, Adeleke Know Fate Thursday as Appeal Court Delivers Judgment
Oyetola, Adeleke

The Court of Appeal in Abuja will on Thursday, May 9, deliver judgment in the appeal filed by the Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress, APC, challenging the decision of the Osun state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which nullified the governor’s victory at the September 2018 poll.

Recall that the Tribunal on March 22, 2019 in a majority judgment declared the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in the September 2018, election, Senator Ademola Adeleke, as winner of the election.

The court, on Wednesday, issued hearing notices for the judgment and had them served on all the parties to the four pending appeals relating to the contentious poll.

A five-man panel headed by Justice Jummai Sankey had, on April 24, heard three appeals and a cross-appeal filed in relation to the Osun election and reserved its judgments on the appeal.

Other members of the appeal panel which heard the appeals were Justices Abubakar Yahaya, George Mbaba, Isaiah Akeju and Bitrus Sanga.

At the hearing on April 24, Oyetola, the All Progressives Congress, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, urged the court to upturn the March 22, judgment of the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

But the PDP and its candidate, Adeleke, urged the Court of Appeal to affirm the tribunal’s judgment.

INEC had declared Oyetola and the APC the winner of the Osun State governorship election on the basis of the cumulative results of the September 22, 2018 main election and the September 27, 2018 supplementary poll.

Dissatisfied with the result declared by INEC, the PDP and Adeleke had filed their petition before the three-man Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, contending that they were the true winner of the election as they had already won after the September 22, 2018 poll and that there was no need for the supplementary election held on September 27, 2018.

PUNCH reports that the tribunal, in its March 22, 2019 split judgment of two-to-one, nullified Oyetola’s victory and declared Adeleke and the PDP the winner of the election.

The tribunal’s chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, in his minority judgment, dissented from the majority judgment credited to Justices Peter Obiorah and Adegboye Gbolagunte.

The trio of Oyetola, APC and INEC had filed separate appeals challenging the majority judgment.

Although, in the overall, the majority judgment of the tribunal was in their favour, both Adeleke and PDP had filed a cross-appeal to challenge the aspect of the verdict which held that they failed to prove allegation of over-voting raised in their petition..

At the April 24 hearing, Oyetola’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, urged the Court of Appeal to uphold his client’s case and nullify the majority judgment of the tribunal.

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He argued that Justice Obiorah, who wrote the lead majority judgment, was absent from the tribunal’s proceedings of February 6, 2019.

The senior lawyer maintained that Justice Obiorah’s non-signing of the day’s proceedings was sufficient evidence that he was absent from the proceedings.

Citing various Supreme Court judgments to back his argument, Olanipekun said Justice Obiorah’s presence or otherwise “goes to the root of fair hearing.”

He added that contrary to the claim by the counsel for Adeleke and the PDP, there was no conflict in the tribunal’s record, as it was clear from the record that Jusitce Obiorah was absent from the proceedings of February 6, 2019.

He also maintained that the deduction of results said to have been afflicted by non-compliance and the declaration of Adeleke as the winner by the tribunal clearly violated the provision of section 140(2) of the Electoral Act, which, according to him, only empowers an election tribunal to order a re-run when allegation of substantial non-compliance of the Electoral Act is proved.

Responding, the lawyer representing both the PDP and Adeleke, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), urged the tribunal to dismiss the appeal and uphold the majority judgment of the tribunal.