The battle for the soul of Osun State has continued in court as both parties in the case are optimistic of victory in court.
The two main political parties involved in the contest have moved their battle to the court after the governorship election in the state in 2018.
According to The Punch, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has fixed Wednesday for the hearing of the appeal filed by the Osun State Governor, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress, challenging the judgment of the state’s Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which nullified their election.
The tribunal had on March 22, 2019, in a split decision declared Oyetola’s main rival in the September 2018 election in the state, Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party as the one validly elected as the governor. It nullified the certificate of return issued to Oyetola and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue a fresh one to Adeleke.
On the contrary, the tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, in his minority judgment, dissented from the majority judgment adopted by Justices Peter Obiorah and Adegboye Gbolagunte.
It was learnt on Monday that April 24 had been fixed by the Court of Appeal for the hearing of the appeal challenging the tribunal’s judgment. Oyetola had in his 39-ground notice of appeal filed on March 26, 2019, urged the Court of Appeal to nullify the majority judgment, which he argued was perverse, replete with contradictions and not supported by evidence led by the petitioners.
The appellant, through his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who filed the notice of appeal on his behalf, asked the Court of Appeal to uphold his appeal, and not only set aside the tribunal’s majority judgment but to also dismiss the October 16, 2018 petition by the PDP and Adeleke.
The governor, by his appeal, challenged the entire majority judgment.
The aspects of the majority judgment he asked the Court of Appeal to uphold are where the tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to set aside INEC guidelines; that the allegations of over-voting were not proved; that the petitioners did not prove voided votes and other parts of the judgment, where the tribunal agreed with their arguments.
Faulting the majority judgment’s nullification of the September 27, 2018 supplementary election, the appellant stated, “Having rightly held that it lacked the jurisdiction to strike out and nullify the approved Guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct of the Osun State Governorship Election 2018, made by INEC, the tribunal misdirected itself in law and came to a perverse decision by going ahead to nullify the rerun election.”
He also contended, among others, that the majority judgment was a nullity on the basis that it was written by Justice Obiorah “who did not participate in all the proceedings of the tribunal and who was not present when all the witnesses gave evidence.”
He also argued that the tribunal acted without jurisdiction by anchoring its decision to grant the petitioners’ prayers and set aside his return on the basis of allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, in relation to the September 22 governorship election.
The appellant noted that, nowhere in the entire petition, did Adeleke and the PDP complained about non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in relation to the September 22, 2018 election.
He faulted the decision of the tribunal to declare Adeleke and the PDP winner when the petitioners had admitted to have benefited from INEC’s alleged non-compliance with Electoral Act by INEC’s alleged failure to fill in some portions of the Forms EC8A (polling unit result sheets).
He maintained that if the tribunal had rightly upheld the allegations of non-compliance it only ought to order a rerun.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal will determine the move of each of the two parties and their candidates in the contest.
It is noteworthy that the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are the two options open for whoever is appealing the matter. After the verdict of the Court of Appeal, then the Supreme Court will be last place of resort and the decision of the Supreme Court is final on any matter.