Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City yesterday threw out the appeal filed by Ms Omosede Igbinedion of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against Dennis Idahosa of the APC. The appellate court also dismissed the appeal filed by Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonyinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC), that of Rt. Hon. Abubakar Momoh of the PDP and Idiake Patrick of APC.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, the Court of Appeal yesterday affirmed the decision of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which threw out the petition of the immediate past Governor of the State (Senator Abiola Ajimobi) against the victory of Senator Kola Balogun of the Oyo South senatorial district in the February 23, 2019 election.
Igbinedion, who is the candidate the PDP for Ovia Federal Constituency in the 2019 general election was challenging the decision of the lower tribunal which upheld the victory of Hon Dennis Idahosa of the APC.
Hon. Agbonyinma (APC) was challenging the victory of Jude Ise-Idehen of the PDP for Ikpoba-Okha/Egor Federal Constituency seat.
While Momoh’s appeal was for the court to upturn the ruling of the lower tribunal which threw out his petition for lack of merit and upheld the election of Senator Francis Alimikhena representing Edo North senatorial district.
Deacon Idiake, candidate of APC had challenged the decision of the lower tribunal to uphold the election of Hon. Joe Edionwele (PDP) for the Esan West/Esan Central/Igueben Federal Constituency.
Justice Aseimo Moore Ademein who read the judgment said all the appeals lacked merit and thereby dismissed.
He said parties are to bear their respective cost and said copies of the judgment would be made available by next week.
In Ibadan, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Ajimobi dissatisfied with the judgment, had approached the Appeal Court asking that the declaration of victory of Balogun by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be quashed on grounds including non-qualification for the election and that the election results declared by the electoral body was invalid.
The INEC had declared that Balogun scored 105,720 votes to defeat Ajimobi who garnered 92,217 votes.
The appellants led by Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), had claimed that the election tribunal did not properly evaluate the evidence brought before it before delivering judgment in the petition but the respondents led by Mr. Olalekan Ojo (SAN) however claimed that the tribunal through due diligence examined all evidence tendered before it.
Justice Haruna Samani who delivered the unanimous judgment yesterday on behalf of the two other Justices (Okoronkwo and Ojo) who were not present, said going by section 138 (1) (a), once the INEC has decided that a candidate has been validly nominated by the party, the issue of non-qualification would not arise.
According to him, “The issue cannot be raised now. It is certainly settled that the ground for disqualification for nomination is a matter for the Constitution. Anyone who is not an interested party will be considered an interloper. Once a candidate is nominated by a party, he cannot be disqualified by any other party”, stressing that the appellant ought to have challenged the non-qualification of the respondent at the High Court.
On the issue of the tribunal not giving any probative value to the evidence of the appellant’s witnesses as canvassed by the petitioners, the Appeal Court Justice found that all the witnesses presented were not qualified to testify at the tribunal. They were not polling agents but only collation agents. They did not have any credible evidence before the tribunal and that was why their case failed.
“The appellants failed to adduce reasons why the collation agents could not give evidence before the tribunal. All the oral evidence given by the witnesses were rightly discountenanced by the tribunal, I do hold”.
Justice Samani in the judgment which lasted 33 minutes, said “This appeal has no merit and so it is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the National Assembly Election Tribunal is hereby affirmed.”