Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Thursday held that Senator Ademola Adeleke was qualified to contest for the 2018 governorship election in Osun State, having possessed the basic qualification of school certificate.
The appellate court consequently set aside the decision of an Abuja High Court in Bwari, which nullified the candidacy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the September 22, 2018, Osun State governorship election, Senator Adeleke.
In the judgment, the Court of Appeal held that the Bwari FCT High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit in the first place, since the suit was filed more than 14 days from the cause of action.
The court in its judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, also faulted the judgment of Justice Musa on the grounds that his judgment was delivered well outside the 180 days provided by the law.
“The suit in the lower court was filed out of the 14 days envisaged by the law for a cause of action in a pre-election matter to be filed as they filed theirs 43 days later.
The suit was statute-barred and the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the it.
“Another reason why it is a nullity is that the judgment was delivered 208 days from the day of filing of the suit before it, instead of the 180 days envisaged by the law,”, Justice Agim held.
He added that since judgment was delivered without jurisdiction, the judgment is null and void.
On the issue of territorial jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal agreed with lawyers to Adeleke that Justice Oathman lacked the territorial jurisdiction to have heard the suit in the first place, because a High Court in the FCT cannot sit over a pre-election matter that has to do with the governorship election in Osun State.
The court also held that it was a gross miscarriage of the appellants right to fair hearing for the lower court not to have considered all the documents and facts placed before it before reaching a decision that the PDP governorship candidate falsified his certificate.
According to Justice Agim, it is curious that the lower court abandoned the evidence it asked for from WAEC and not consider the said documents before reaching a decision.
“This is a wrong approach; the appeal succeeds and is upheld,” the court added.
Justice Agim subsequently set aside the judgment of the lower court delivered by justice Oathman Musa and ordered the first and second respondents, Wahab Raheem and Adam Habeeb, to pay N3 million to Adeleke as cost.
Meanwhile, Adeleke has described the Appeal Court Judgment as a vindication of his innocence.
An elated Adeleke in a statement by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, said that the appellate court has saved his image and credibility from a calculated smear campaign.
“I am happy to read the judgment, which confirmed and established the truth. I forged no certificate or testimonial. I fulfilled constitutional requirements to contest elections. I am a law-abiding, honest politician who is a victim of power mongers who think the way to retain the stolen mandate is to tarnish my image.
“I thank the judiciary for rescuing me and the good people of Osun State. The goal of my detractors was to paint me in the worst of image. Today, I am vindicated. I thank the judiciary, the good people of Osun State and God Almighty. I have full confidence that at the Supreme Court justice will be done. Our stolen mandate will be restored,” he added.
Adeleke in his appeal had told the Court of Appeal in Abuja that he never forged the West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate he presented to INEC to secure clearance for the gubernatorial election.
He had insisted that the certificate attached to his nomination form CF 001 was lawfully issued to him and as confirmed by WAEC in its affidavit evidence submitted to the Federal Capital (Territory FCT) High Court.
He therefore, pleaded with the court to set aside the judgment of Justice Musa which he said erroneous held that his certificate was forged as alleged by two chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Adeleke further told the appellate court that Justice Musa erred in law when it ignored document he ordered to be presented before it in reaching his decision that Adeleke did not possess requisite academic qualification for the office of governor, adding that there was no case of non-qualification or forgery against Adeleke before the lower court.
He consequently urged the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment of the lower court and dismiss the suit of the two APC chieftains for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Similarly, the PDP in its own appeal argued by Emmanuel Enoidem, urged the appellate court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent and statute- barred.
The PDP legal adviser said the suit was caught by the Fourth Alteration Act to the 1999 Constitution, having not been filed within the 14 days allowed by law.
According to Enoidem, the suit was filed after 44 days the cause of action arose while the judgment was delivered outside the 180 days prescribed by law for a pre-election matter.
The PDP had conducted its primary on July 21, 2018, while the plaintiffs who are respondents in the appeal had filed their case on September 4, 2018 and judgment delivered on April 2, 2019.
In their own argument, the two respondents through their counsel, Joel Akomolafe, however urged the court to uphold the judgment of the lower court, adding that the appellants did not appeal the issue of jurisdiction at the lower court.
He said that the judgment of the trial court remains valid in as much as it was not appealled against by the appellants.
He informed the court that the trial court had dismissed Adeleke and PDP’s motion challenging jurisdiction on the grounds that it was canvassed belatedly.