From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal will on Friday, March 24, deliver judgment in the multiple appeals arising from the Osun State Governorship election petition tribunal which nullify the election of Governor Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The appellate court had after taking arguments canvassed by counsel to both parties for and against the appeal, reserved its judgment.

Findings by Daily Sun revealed that hearing notice in respect of the judgment has already been issued to both parties.

The Osun State governorship election petition tribunal had in its majority judgment declared Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress(APC) as the valid winner of the July 16, 2022 governorship election.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the tribunal, Governor Adeleke and his political party, the PDP, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have approached the Court of Appeal asking for the setting aside of the judgment of the Governorship election petition tribunal.

Meanwhile, both Oyetola and his political platform, APC, have urged the appellate court to hold that Governor Ademola Adeleke was not a fit and proper person to have run for the office of the governor by virtue of the fact that a case of forgery has been established against him by the tribunal.

A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaib had last Monday, reserved judgment in the multiple appeals after taking arguments canvassed for and against the appeals.

The appeals are CA/AK/EPT/GOV/01/2023 in EPT/OS/GOV/02/2022 between Adeleke Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Vs Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola & 3 ord; CA/AK/EPT/GOV/02/2023 in EPT/OS/GOV/02/2022 between Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Vs Adegboyega Oyetola & 3ors; CA/AK/EPT/GOV/03/2023 in EPT/OS/GOV/03/2022 between Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Vs Adegboyega Oyetola & 3 ors and CA/AK/EPT/GOV/03/2023 in EPT/OS/GOV/03/2022, a cross- appeal filed by Adegboyega Oyetola Vs INEC & 3ors.

The parties were represented by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN, for Governor Adeleke; Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, for PDP; Prof. Paul Ananaba, SAN, for INEC and Prince Lateef Fagbemi for Oyetola, respectively.

Moving his appeal, counsel to the appellants urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the tribunal.

They predicated their case on the grounds that the tribunal occasioned a miscarriage of justice and misdirected itself in arriving at its conclusion that there was over-voting during the election.

The equally urged the court to declare the judgment of the tribunal a nulity on the basis that a member of the tribunal, Chief Magistrate Basiru Rabi, who signed the judgment did not contribute to the findings of the tribunal as required by law.

Basically, they argued that the failure of the tribunal member 2, Chief Magistrate Basiru Rabi to make pronouncements with regards to the lead judgment other than appending her signature rendered the entire judgment a nulity.

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At this point, the presiding Justice, Justice Shuaibu challenged the Adeleke’s counsel to explain the interpretation of the Chief Magistrate Rabi’s signature on the judgement and the use of “we” in the majority judgement. But Ikpeazu insisted that signing of the judgement was not enough.

On the controversial BVAS report, upon which Oyetola challenged the election, they argued that assuming the tribunal had found that there was over-voting as shown on the report, it should have applied the principle of the Margin of Lead and order a rerun election in the affected polling units.

The INEC counsel also in his arguments admitted that the INEC witness indeed admitted over-voting on the polling units upon which she was cross-examined, but it was not enough to nullify the election.

Puncturing the arguments of the appellants, counsel for Oyetola, Fagbemi, SAN said, there was confusion among the appellants’ submissions, as they had produced three different BVAS reports, which justified the position of the tribunal that there was indeed over-voting in that election.

“INEC claimed there were over-voting in over 1, 000 polling units, the implication is that the 744 polling units we challenged fall within the said over 1,000 polling units. We are only concerned about 744 polling units and we built our case around those areas. They can keep the rest, we concentrated on what we need,” Fagbemi added.

He argued further that the issuance of another BVAS report and production of BVAS machines in court after a petition had been filed based on the earlier BVAS report issued to the respondents (Oyetola and APC) was nothing but an afterthought.

According to him, though the INEC produced the BVAS machine and the boxes containing the machines were opened, but the machines were never operated to authenticate the claims made by the so called expert, who was hired by the first appellant (Adeleke).

Fagbemi, SAN, further submitted that since the said report from the inspection of the BVAS machine did not emanate from INEC, which conducted the election, the first appellant who was the beneficiary of the return made by INEC, cannot come up with a report other than that of INEC.

He said the respondents (Oyetola and APC) who were the Petitioners at the tribunal had proven over-voting and the tribunal was right to have so held.

On the issue of application of Margin of Lead being canvassed by the appellants, Fagbemi averred that the they did not make any pleading to that effect, and no evidence was led on specific polling units.

In the cross-appeal filed by Oyetola and the APC on the forged certificate by Adeleke, Olujinmi argued that since the tribunal had found that he forged the certificate he ought to have been disqualified from contesting the election.

He said that the document tendered which the tribunal relied on to found him qualified for the election were documentary hearsay that could not be relied upon.

He argued that the judgement of the Court of Appeal relied on by the cross-respondent could not exonerate Adeleke as the arguments canvases and evidence tendered in the previous case were not the same with the ones before the tribunal. He, therefore, prayed the court to allow the cross-appeal.

After listening to all the arguments of counsel, the panel reserved judgement in all the four appeals, which it noted would be communicated to parties at a later date.