By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The Court of Appeal Abuja, yesterday, upheld the election of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, even as it nullified the tribunal judgment that declared Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as valid winner of governorship election in the state.
In a dissenting judgment of four-to-one, the five-man panel led by Justice Jummai Sankey, the Court upheld the appeal filed by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State challenging the verdict of the tribunal and affirmed upheld his election.
The court resolved 10 out of the 12 issues raised in favour of Oyetola and the two others in favour of Ademola and his PDP.
The Court of Appeal’s majority judgment was based on the alleged absence of a member of the tribunal, Justice Peter Obiorah, who read the lead majority verdict of the tribunal, during the February 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal.
In its judgement, the appellate court held that it was wrong for a member of the tribunal panel, Justice Peter Obiora, who did not attend the entire proceedings of the tribunal, to deliver the majority judgment that sacked Oyetola from office.
Justice Sankey held that absence of Justice Obiorah on that date nullified the entire proceedings and the verdict of the tribunal.
The court also held that both PDP and its candidate failed to prove their allegation that the September 27 re-run election that led to Oyetola’s emergence, was characterized by irregularities and over-voting.
It held that the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to produce the ballot papers and record of accreditation to disprove allegations in the petition, did not substantially affect result of the election.
However, the court discountenanced Oyetola’s contention that Adeleke’s petition against his election was statues barred.
Justice Sankey held, “The appeal succeeds, accordingly, I allow the appeal and set-aside the decision of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
“I make no order as to cost,”
Meanwhile, three other Justices on the panel, Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju and Bitrus Sanga, agreed with the lead verdict.
However, a fourth member of the panel, Justice Ita Mbaba, disagreed and upheld the tribunal verdict that gave Adeleke victory.
Justice Mbaba further awarded N200, 000 cost against Oyetola and the APC.
Recall that INEC had declared Oyetola and the APC the winner of the Osun State governorship election on the basis of the cumulative results of the September 22, 2018, main election and the September 27, 2018, supplementary poll.
Not satisfied with the INEC declaration, the PDP and Adeleke had filed their petition before the three-man Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, seeking for redress.
The aggrieved party contended that they were the true winner of the election as they had already won after the September 22, 2018 poll and that there was no need for the supplementary election held on September 27, 2018.
The tribunal, in its March 22, 2019, split judgment of two-to-one, nullified Oyetola’s victory and declared Adeleke and the PDP the winner of the election.
Reacting to the judgement of the Appeal Court, Senator Adeleke has registered his intention to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court.