S’Court Fixes July 5 for Judgment on Osun Gov Tussle

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Gboyega Oyetola and Ademola Adeleke

•Oyetola, APC, INEC ask court to dismiss appeals
•INEC wrong to conduct supplementary election, insists Adeleke

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Supreme Court yesterday reserved judgment till July 5 in the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) suit challenging the election of the All Progressives Congress’ (APC), Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola, as governor of Osun State.

A seven-man panel of justices of the apex court presided over by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, announced the date after counsel in the matter adopted and argued their briefs of argument.

While Oyetola, APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in their submissions urged the apex court to dismiss Adeleke’s appeal for lacking merit, the PDP candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, on the other hand is laying claim to the governorship of the state on the grounds that INEC could not cancel and conduct a supplementary election without an order of the court.

Other members of the panel that heard the appeals are Justices Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, Kumai Aka’ahs, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amiru Sanusi, Paul Galunmje and Uwani Abbah-Aji.

The PDP and Adeleke in their appeal specifically asked the apex court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and restore the decision of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal, which declared Adeleke as winner of the governorship election.
Adeleke had filed four appeals marked: SC/553/2019; SC/554/2019; SC/555/2019 and SC/556/2019, challenging the return of Oyetola as winner of the September 2018 governorship poll in Osun State.

At the resumed hearing yesterday, the apex court held that its decision reached in the main appeal – SC/553/2019, will be applied to two other similar ones, filed by Adeleke against the Court of Appeal’s decision in relation to the appeals filed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC, marked: SC/554/2019 and SC/555/2019 respectively.

In their arguments, lawyers to the respondents – INEC, Oyetola and the APC faulted the appeals and prayed the court to dismiss them for lacking in merit.

While Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) represented the appellants, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) represented counsel for the 1st respondent (Oyetola) in respect of appeal marked: SC/553/2019.
In the fourth appeal marked: SC/556/2019, Ikpeazu again represented the appellants; Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN) (INEC); Olanipekun (SAN) (Oyetola) and Mr. Olumide Olujinmi (APC).

The respondents prayed the court to uphold the judgments as given on May 9, 2019 by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which had affirmed Oyetola as the winner of the governorship election held in the September 2018.
Responding, Ikpeazu while moving Adeleke’s appeal prayed the Supreme Court to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja division and restore the majority decision of the state election petition tribunal, which declared Adeleke as the winner.

The appellant counsel informed the court that INEC was wrong in cancelling election in seven polling units and conducting a supplementary election without an order of court.

Ikpeazu said that Paragraph 44 of the INEC guidelines used to cancel the election and conducting the supplementary election was in violation of Section 179 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, adding that the appellant had already met constitutional provisions to be declared as the winner of the election without the supplementary election.

He, therefore, pleaded with the apex court to resolve all the issues in favour of his client.
The INEC had declared Oyetola winner of the September 22 and 27, 2018 governorship and rerun election in Osun State, an action which gave rise to Adeleke and PDP’s petition at the state election tribunal.
The tribunal in its judgment in March this year sacked Oyetola as governor of Osun State on the grounds that he did not win the majority of lawful votes to emerge winner of the governorship poll.

Following his sack, a two-to-one majority decision delivered by Justice Peter Obiorah at the tribunal, Oyetola and the APC, approached the appellate court, which in its own judgment returned them as winner of the governorship poll.
The decision of the final court of justice in the land comes July 5, and would put to rest the legal tussle for the number one seat in the Osun State.