The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in the appeal filed by Osun State Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke over the judgment of the election petition tribunal which annulled his election.
The appeal is marked CA/AK/EPT/GOV/01/2023. While former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are joined as 1st and 2nd respondents, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are joined as 3rd and 4th respondents respectively. Aside from Adeleke’s appeal, the Court of Appeal is also expected to sit on other appeals filed by INEC, PDP and Oyetola.
The three-member panel led by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu informed the parties after hearing arguments on the matter that a date for the judgment would be communicated to them by the court.
Adeleke’s legal team led by the go-to election petition trial lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN had on February 9, 2023 filed 31 grounds of appeal against the January 27, 2023 split judgment of the tribunal which sparked widespread protests especially in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
The tribunal voided the July 16, 2022 election that produced Adeleke as the elected governor and ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Oyetola as the duly elected governor. A member of the three-man panel however disagreed, delivering a dissenting judgment.
INEC also sharply disagreed with the tribunal and filed an unprecedented 44 grounds of appeal against the judgment. In a Notice of Appeal signed by its Lead Counsel, Prof. Paul Ananaba SAN, the commission stated that the judgment of the tribunal was riddled with “error in law” and “want of competence and jurisdiction.”
INEC urged the Appeal Court to set aside the whole judgment of the tribunal, arguing that “The judgement of the lower Tribunal is against the weight of evidence.”
It urged the appeal court to “Allow the Appeal” and sought “An Order dismissing and/or striking out the Petition for want of competence and jurisdiction” as well as “An Order dismissing the Petition of the 1 and 2nd Respondents in this Appeal as lacking in merit with substantial cost.” Oyetola and APC are 1st and 2nd respondents while Adeleke and the PDP were joined by INEC as 3rd and 4th respondents.
On his part, Adeleke described the tribunal’s judgment as a “miscarriage of justice” and prayed for “an order setting aside the whole decision of the tribunal”. The governor also sought “an order striking out the petition for want of competence and jurisdiction or in the alternative, an order dismissing the petition on the merit”.
While the tribunal had in a statement which attracted heated public debate held that Adeleke “cannot ‘go lo lo lo lo’ and ‘buga won’ as the duly elected governor of Osun state,” the appellant stated in his Notice of Appeal that “The tribunal, in its judgment, erred in law and displayed bias against the appellant when it made reference to the appellant’s dance at his inauguration as governor of Osun state which was never an issue before the lower tribunal.
“By referring to the appellant’s personal eccentricity for dancing, the lower tribunal derided and mocked him in a manner suggesting that it was biased against him.
“The appearance of bias, manifested in the reference to the Appellant’s proclivity for dancing and particularly the Buga song, has rendered the decision of the lower Tribunal a nullity.
“The tribunal in its judgment erred in law in returning the 1st respondent as the duly elected candidate without due regard to the enormity of the voters in the units where the results were cancelled for overvoting.”
At the hearing of the appeal, Ikpeazu argued that the tribunal did not base its judgment on the data on INEC’s Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines and the certified extracts which gave a clear lead to Adeleke even if some polling unit results were cancelled. He also argued that a member of the tribunal did not read her judgment as required by Nigeria’s Constitution and the rules of court.
But Fagbemi countered Ikpeazu, saying that the typed document of the judgement stated the decision of the court, adding that “Our position has always been that not all registered voters were accredited by BVAS.”
INEC had on Sunday, July 17, 2022 declared Adeleke as the winner of the Osun State Governorship Election, having won in 17 of the 30 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state. Oyetola won in the remaining 13 LGAs.
While Adeleke polled 403,371 votes to defeat his APC rival and then incumbent governor, Oyetola polled 375,027 votes, showing a difference of about 44,426 votes in the hotly contested election which had 15 governorship candidates.