Updated: Appeal Court reserves judgment on Osun Gov dispute

March 13, 2023
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The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reserved judgments in three appeals and a cross-appeal filed in respect of the dispute over the last governorship election in Osun State.

A three-member, presided over by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu, after taking final arguments from lawyers to parties, announced that they will be informed when the judgments are ready.

The substantive appeals, filed by Osun Governor, Ademola Adeleke, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are against the January 27 judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal, which voided Adeleke’s victory at the election held on July 16, 2022.

The cross-appeal, jointly filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the election, Adegboyega Oyetola, is against a portion of the tribunal’s judgment.

Arguing their different appeals, lawyers to Adeleke, PDP and INEC – Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Alex Izinyon (SAN) and Paul Ananaba (SAN) urged the court to allow their appeals and set aside the tribunal’s judgment.

Ikpeazu, Izinyon and Ananaba argued that the judgment of the tribunal was a nullity because one of the members did not utter her opinion as required under Section 294(2) of the Constitution.

They also faulted the quality of evidence led by the petitioners – APC and Oyetola – at the tribunal and argued that the petitioners failed to prove their case.

The appellants’ lawyers argued that the BVAS report tendered by the petitioners were not duly certified and did not represent the actual result of the election.

They said the problem of overvoting affected only six polling units as against the 744 identified by the tribunal.

Izinyon particularly noted that it was not in dispute that the Chief Magistrate (a member of the trial tribunal) signed, adding that the issue was that she ought to verbalise her opinion.

He argued that the law requires that the Chief Magistrate ought to make a pronouncement, which he said, was made and therefore prayed the court to declare the judgment a nullity.

Izinyon also faulted the petition filed by the APC and Oyetola at the tribunal, arguing that it offended the provisions of the Electoral Act.

Responding, lawyer to the APC and Oyetola, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) urged the court to dismiss the three appeals and affirm the judgment of the tribunal, which he said effectively evaluated the evidence led and came to the right conclusion that there were overvoting in many polling units.

On appellants’ argument that a member of the tribunal did not make a contribution to the judgment, Fagbemi argued that Section 294(2) was only applicable to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, but not to election tribunals.

On the quality of evidence led, Fagbemi argued that the BVAS reports tendered by the petitioners, which were relied on by the tribunal were certified true copy of the reports of accredited voters obtained from INEC.

He faulted the other two different BVAS reports tendered by INEC, arguing that they were generated during the pendency of his clients’ case at the tribunal, with the intention to cover the lapses exposed by their petition.

“There is no such concept as synchronization. They (INEC) only came up with that concept after we have filed our petition and pointed out their errors. There cannot be three BVAS reports in respect of one election. That is embarrassing,” he said.

Fagbemi argued that the admission by the appellants’ lawyers, particularly Ananaba, that there were overvoting in more polling units than the 744 identified by the tribunal supported the petitioners’ case that there was indeed overvoting.

On INEC lawyer’s claim the the BVAS reports tendered by the petitioners were not the final reports, Fagbemi said such claim was an after-thought.

“If the result was not ready why did they not say so? Where did they get the result they announced on June 17. When they issued us the BVAS report about 10 days later, they did not say it was not the final result,” Fagbemi said.

He argued that his clients effectively established overvoting by using the BVAS reports and the results of the election.

The cross-appeal by the APC and Oyetola was argued by Akin Olujinmi (SAN) who prayed the court to allow the cross-appeal and hold that Adeleke was not qualified to have contested the election.

Olujinmi argued that the tribunal was wrong not to have disqualified Adeleke having found that he forged his academic certificate.

He further argued that the tribunal erred when, after holding that Adeleke forged his certificate, it decided to rely on other certificates tendered by him.

In their responses, Ikpeazu, Izinyon and Ananaba argued that in view of a subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal to effect that Adeleke did not forge any certificate, it was wrong for the tribunal to still make pronouncement on an issue already determined by the appellate court.

They prayed the court to dismiss the cross-appeal.

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