Oyetola Asks Appeal Court to Set Aside Adeleke, PDP’s Victory at Tribunal

Gboyega Oyetola

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, has asked the Court of Appeal in Abuja to set aside the majority judgment of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal which nullified his election and declared the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) candidate, Ademola Adeleke as winner of the September 2018 governorship election in Osun State.

The tribunal had in its Judgment of March 22, 2019, voided Oyetola’s election and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw his Certificate of Return while at the same time ordered INEC to issue a fresh Certificate of Return to Adeleke.

However, Oyetola, who contested the last governorship election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has faulted the majority judgement delivered by Justices Peter Obiora and Anyinla Gbolagunte.

The governor in his 39-ground Notice of Appeal filed on March 26, 2019 by his team of lawyers, led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), claimed that the judgement was “perverse, replete with contradictions and not supported by evidence led by the petitioners”.

He therefore asked the appellate court to uphold his appeal, set aside the majority judgment and dismiss the October 16, 2018 petition by PDP and Adeleke.

The governor said his complaint, in the appeal, was against the entire majority judgment, except where the tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to set aside INEC Guidelines; that the allegation of over voting was not proved; that the petitioners did not prove voided votes and other parts of the judgment where the tribunal agreed with their arguments.

Oyetola is contending, in his first ground of appeal, that the entire majority judgment is a nullity, because it was written and delivered by Justice Obiora “who did not participate in all the proceedings of the tribunal and who was not present when all the witnesses gave evidence.”

He noted that Justice Obiora was absent on February 6 this year when the respondents witnesses (RWs) 12 and 13 – Ayoola Soji and Oladejo Kazeem – testified and tendered exhibits, which the tribunal admitted in evidence.

The appellant argued that, having not attended the tribunal’s siting on February 6, 2019, Justice Obiora could not have seen the two witnesses and was unable to examine their demeanour, as required, and therefore, unlawful for the judge to have authored a judgment in which he reviewed the evidence given by the witnesses.

He said: “The writing of and or the participation of the honourable justice P. C. Obiora in the writing of the judgment of the lower tribunal of 22nd March 2019 and delivery of same, vitiates the entire judgment.”

Oyetola also argued that the tribunal, in its majority judgment, erred in law and acted without jurisdiction when it accepted the petitioners’ complained of non compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act in relation to the September 22, 2018 governorship election in Osun State and on that basis proceeded to nullify the victory of Oyetola and APC.

It was equally the appellant’s contention that the tribunal acted without jurisdiction by basing its decision to uphold the petition and set aside the return of the appellants on the basis of allegation of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, in relation to the September 22 governorship election.