. To Deliver Judgment on Thursday
The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard the appeals against the verdict of the Appellate Court which upheld the declaration of Governor Olusegun Mimiko as the winner of the October 20, 2012 governorship election in Ondo State.
The appeals against the verdict were filed by the candidates of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olusola Oke.
The hearing of the appeals against the July 1, 2013 ruling of the Court of Appeal had earlier been fixed for September 24. The date was however reviewed as it would fall outside the mandatory 60 days provided for by the constitution for the determination of matters relating to election petitions. Though the August date falls within the period when judges normally go on vacation ahead of the coming legal year, the Chief Justice of Nigeria recalled Justices of the Supreme Court for the case.
Justice W. Unoughen sat as the Head of the 7-member panel of justices.
The hearing opened with the appeal of the Action Congress of Nigeria.).
Interestingly, the trio of Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Olusola Oke of PDP and Rotimi Akeredolu of ACN all appeared in court.
While Dr Mimiko and Chief Oke sat close to each other, Chief Akeredolu chose to sit afar from them in the court room.
In the course of the hearing, Chief Wole Olanipekun, counsel to Dr Olusegun Mimiko objected to the argument put up by Wole Aina, Akeredolu’s counsel, stressing that the name of ACN be struck out since the party was already dead.
Labour Party’s counsel, Yusuf Alli described the death of ACN is a notorious fact and he requested that the Justices should as a matter of fact take judicial notice of it.
The ACN’s counsel, Wole Aina however applied for an oral application to substitute ACN for All Progressives Congress, thereby tactically admitting that ACN is dead.
While faulting the application, Wole Olanipekun said it lacks merit and that even if it had any merit, it ought to have been made by APC or its counsel and not Aina or counsel of the CAN candidate. He said the said application for the substitution of ACN for APC cannot be made by the court.
Yusuf Alli added that under the law, there is no provision for the adoption of candidates by any political party and as such, APC can not adopt Akeredolu through the back door.
The trio of Olanipekun, Alli Onyekachi Ikpeazu, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission posed a question that “could the APC have sponsored a candidate in October 2012 when it was not in existence?” to back their opposition for the substitution of the name of the ACN for APC.
The Court thereafter struck out the name of ACN from the appeal filed by Rotimi Akeredolu. The apex court also refused the applicant’s application to make any substitution, as it said it has no competence to grant the application to substitute ACN for APC
As the court proceeded in the hearing of the substantive matter brought by Akeredolu, Chief Wole Olanipekun, while addressing the court argued that with the earlier ruling, Akeredolu’s case has become merely academic and that the court cannot grant the relief that the court should declare a re-run election cannot be actualized as the ACN on whose platform he contested for the election has ceased to exist.
Olanipekun also described the ACN candidate’s petition as a dream that cannot be achieved. He therefore urged the court to allow his cross-appeal and dismiss Akeredolu’s petition. Ikpeazu too prayed the court to dismiss Akeredolu’s petition.
After the first session, the court also heard the petition filed by the PDP candidate, Chief Olusola Oke.
Oke was represented by a team led by Chief Lateef Fagbemi while Dr Oladapo Olanipekun appeared for Dr Olusegun Mimiko and Yusuf Alli and Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) for the Labour Party.
PDP’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi told the court that INEC did not publicly display the voters’ registers in accordance with electoral laws and that there were irregularities in the October 20, 2012 election. He therefore prayed the court to declare his client winner of the election.
Governor Mimiko’s counsel, Dr Olanipekun told the court that the appellants narrowed their case down to the issue of the injection which was not found by the lower court. He however told the court that Chief Oke did not give any proof of injection into the voters’ register. Dr. Olanipekun said the appellants sought to establish their case on the evidence of one witness who was not everywhere at the same time. He stated before the court that the appellants failed in the principle of substantiality in his case. Yusuf Ali, the Labour Party counsel aligned himself with the submission of the Governor’s counsel. Both prayed the court to strike out Chief Oke’s case.
At a point, Chief Oke also a lawyer, changed his location in the courtroom as he moved to converse with his counsels apparently trying to point out some salient points to them.
In his address, INEC’s counsel, Onyekachi Ikpeazu said Olusola Oke was asking the court for contradictory reliefs.
The court has fixed ruling for Thursday on the appeals filed by Chiefs Olusola Oke and Rotimi Akeredolu against the re-election of Dr Mimiko.