The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal filed by candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the September 22, 2018 gubernatorial election and the supplementary election of September 27 in Osun State.
A seven-member panel of the apex court led by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justcie Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, resolved all the appeal in favour of candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola.
The Supreme Court in a majority judgement by five justices as against the minority judgment of two justices upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which nullified the proceeding of the tribunal.
The Osun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal had on 22nd March declared Senator Ademola Adeleke, the winner of the 2018 governorship election in the state.
Justice Peter Obiorah who read the majority judgment of the tribunal held that the returning officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had no powers to cancel the election in the seven polling units on September 22, 2018, which led to the rerun election on September 27, 2018.
But the appellate court on May 9, 2019 upheld Oyetola’s appeal on the grounds that the tribunal was not properly constituted on February 6, 2019, when some witnesses appeared before it.
The Court of Appeal held that the absence of Justice Peter Obiorah at the tribunal proceedings on February 6 rendered the three-member panel incompetent as it denied Oyetola the benefit of fair hearing.
According to the majority judgment delivered by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, counsel to Adeleke, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN) agreed at the Court of Appeal that Justice Obiorah was absent at the proceedings of 6th February, but contradicted himself before the Supreme Court, by saying there was an error on the records of the Court of Appeal.
“Counsel to the appellant, Dr. Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN) also held the view that Obiorah did not sit, it is in the Supreme Court that Dr. Ikpeazu appeared to be taking the stand that there was a conflict in the record of the Court of Appeal, a counsel should be consistent in stating its case, and should not take one stand at the lower court and somersault during trial. Justice is much more than a game of hide and seek,” Justice Rhodes-Vivour said.
According to him, the records before the court showed that Obiorah was not present on the said date, as he signed all the proceedings of the tribunal, except on 6th February.
“Justice Obiorah was not present at the proceedings of 6th February when the testimonies of RW12 and RW13 were taken; it is a fundamental error that is irredeemable for all time.
“Counsel for the appellant ought to have advised his client that the failure of Obiora to appear in court on the 6th February and then return to court to give judgment was a fundamental error which affects the competence of the tribunal to deliver a judgment. I affirm the majority decision of the Court of Appeal, the majority decision of the tribunal is a nullity, preliminary objection is overruled and the appeal is dismissed,” Rhodes-Vivour added.
Other justices who agreed with majority decision were Mohammad, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Justice Amir Sanusi and Justice Uwani Aba-Aji.
However, two members of the panel, Justice Kumai Akkas and Justice Paul Adamu Galinje disagreed with the judgment.
Justice Obiorah, according to the court’s record, was absent on February 6, 2019 when the respondents witnesses RW 12 and RW 13, Ayoola Soji and Oladejo Kazeem, respectively testified and tendered exhibits, which the tribunal admitted in evidence.
The court also agreed with Olanipekun that the decision of Obiorah to write the judgment in a proceeding he did not participate was irregular and inconsistent with the law and made the judgment to run contrary to the provisions of the law.
Wild jubilation erupted in the camp of the APC and its supporters in Osun yesterday following the dismissal of the appeal filled by Adeleke by the Supreme Court.
Major streets in the state capital were besieged by residents who rolled our drums to celebrate the victory.
Also reacting, the former minister of aviation, Femi Fani Kayode, described the supreme court judgment as a daylight robbery.
He posted on his twitter that the ruling was not a surprise to him.
PMB, Lawan Greets Oyetola Over Legal Triumph
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Oyetola on the Supreme Court ruling which affirmed his victory in the governorship election.
He said: “The decision of the apex court lays to rest the tussle over the governorship of Osun State and removes all encumbrances on the path of the governor from fully delivering the dividends of democracy to the good people of the State.”
Laso, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, congratulated Oyetola over his victory at the Supreme Court and urged him to be magnanimous in victory.
Lawan, in a statement issued by his special assistant on Media and Publicity, Mohammed Isa, described the judgement as victory for democracy, the APC, the governor and people of Osun State.
The APC welcomed the verdict of the Supreme Court even as it stated that the governor could now settle down for the business of governance.
PDP Expresses Shock Over S/Court Verdict
The PDP said it was shocked at the ruling of the Supreme Court on the contentious governorship election.
The fact that the Supreme Court had a split judgment also speaks volumes on its verdict in the matter.
In a statement issued by the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodinyan, he said: “Our study of the judgment, however, shows that the Supreme Court did not negate the position of the PDP and millions of Nigerians that our candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, won the election, but based its verdict on reservations over issues of technicalities arising at the election petitions tribunal.”
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