The fate of Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress and that of Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party hangs in the balance as the Osun State Election Appeal Tribunal on Wednesday reserved judgment in the four appeals filed by Oyetola and others.
Oyetola and other filed the appeal against the judgment of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal in March.
The five man panel of justices of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Jummai Sankey, said that the dates for judgment would be communicated to parties, shortly after counsel to parties adopted and argued their briefs of argument in the various suits.
The first suit with number CA/A/EPT/246/2019 which was filed by Oyetola, has candidate of the PDP in the Osun governorship election, Senator Adeleke, the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as 1st to 4th respondents respectively.
The second with number CA/A/EPT/256/2019, filed by the APC has Adeleke, PDP, INEC and Oyetola as 1st to 4th respondents.
While the third appeal filed by INEC and marked: CA/A/EPT/259/2019, has Adeleke, PDP, Oyetola and APC as respondents, the fourth marked:
CA/A/EPT/295/2019, filed by Adeleke has Oyetola, APC, INEC as respondents.
Both Oyetola and Adeleke had appealed the judgment of the Osun tribunal on the governorship poll held on September 22, 2018 and the rerun held on September 27, 2018.
The first three appeals are challenging the majority judgment of the tribunal, the fourth which is a cross appeal is seeking to upturn the decenting and minority judgment of the tribunal.
Oyetola and the APC in their appeals are asking the Court of Appeal to set aside the majority decision that nullified Oyetola’s victory and return Adeleke as the lawful winner of the poll. Adeleke on the other hand is asking the court to uphold his victory as declared by the tribunal and upturn the minority Judgment which had dismissed his petition for lacking in merit.
The election petition tribunal had in a split decision of twoto one in its March 22, 2019, judgment, voided the election of Oyetola and the APC in the Osun governorship poll. It also ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Oyetola and issue a fresh one to Adeleke, having won majority of the lawful votes cast at the poll.
The majority Judgment was delivered by Peter Obiorah while the minority and dissenting judgment was delivered by Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo.
But arguing the appeal of Governor Oyetola, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Wole Olanipekun, prayed the panel to void the tribunal’s judgment on the grounds that it violated the Electoral Act 2010 and judicial precedence of the Supreme Court.
Specifically, the Governor faulted the judgment as been unknown to law because Justice Peter Obiorah, who prepared and read the lead judgement did not participate fully during the hearing of the petition.
Olanipekun cited the February 6 proceeding in which he claimed Justice Obiorah did not attend as he did not sign the proceeding of that day.
He accused Justice Obiorah of quoting a large part of the February 6, proceedings whereas he was not in court on the said day.
While claiming that Obiorah’s action amounted to judicial hear-say which he insisted has no place in law, Olanipekun accordingly urged the Court of Appeal to set aside the majority judgement of the tribunal, and uphold the Oyetola’s victory at the poll.
Similarly, the APC in its own appeal argued by chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), also faulted the majority judgement of the tribunal on the grounds that the petition was based on an inconclusive election and as such ought to be dismissed in the first place.
INEC in its appeal argued by Yusuf Ali (SAN), submitted that the findings of the tribunal were wrong because they were based on uncertified form documents dumped on the tribunal by Adeleke and PDP.
Responding to the different appeals, counsel to both Adeleke and PDP, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), however, urged the Appeal Court to dismiss all three appeals for lacking in merit.
Ikpeazu submitted that contrary to Olanipekun’s position that Justice Obiorah did not attend the proceedings of February 6 because he did not append his signature on the proceedings of the said day, there were indications that justice Obiorah was at the tribunal as his name was on the heading of the day’s proceedings.
Ikpeazu stated that apart from the February 6, Justice Obiorah was in attendance throughout and that on that day only two witnesses testified whereas over one hundred witnesses testified during the hearing of the petition.
While submitting that besides the case of Obiorah, the three appealants did not complain of miscarriage of justice. He urged the court to allow Adeleke and PDP’s appeal and uphold the judgment of the tribunal which returned them winner of the Osun governorship election, adding that the effect of the judgment should be considered by the court.
Meanwhile, Adeleke and PDP in their cross appeal, filed and argued by Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), urged the court to allow Adeleke’s appeal and reverse the portion of the judgment, where the tribunal rejected the evidence the petitioners led in relation to six polling units.
The senior lawyer claimed that the tribunal wrongly excluded some of its evidence, because while it called 23 witnesses to prove its allegation of non-compliance in 23 polling units, the tribunal only upheld 17.
In their separate responses counsel to Oyetola, APC and INEC submitted that the cross appeal was incompetent on several grounds and urged the tribunal to dismiss it.
After taken arguments from parties in the appeals, Justice Sankey announced that judgments have been reserved and that the parties will be informed as soon as a date is fixed.