* Tribunal admits Adeleke’s certificates as exhibits as ex-gov closes case
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has affirmed the candidature and nomination of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the July 16 governorship election in Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, and his running mate, Benedict Alabi.
Oyetola and Alabi are the immediate past governor and deputy governor of Osun State.
Meanwhile, the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal yesterday admitted in evidence the file with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) containing the secondary school certificate and testimonial of Governor Ademola Adeleke of the state.
The Appeal Court set aside the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered by Justice Emeka Nwite, nullifying the nomination of Oyetola and Alabi as the APC governorship and deputy governorship candidates.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had on September 30 nullified the nomination of Oyetola and his running mate, Alabi.
The nullification was on the grounds that Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe, who submitted their names to INEC, violated the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution and Section 82 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
In his judgment, Justice Emeka Nwite agreed with the submissions of the plaintiff’s counsel and declared as null and void the nomination of Oyetola and Alabi by the APC.
The PDP through its counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, had in the suit dragged Buni and four others before the court challenging the nomination and sponsorship of Oyetola and his running mate as the duly nominated candidates of the APC.
But the Appeal Court in Abuja, on Friday, in appeal no: CA/ABJ/CV/1099/2022 between Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola & Anor v PDP & Ors, authenticated the nomination of the duo.
In allowing the appeal filed by Oyetola and his party, APC, the Court of Appeal held that the outcome of a governorship primary is a collective decision of a party through its congress.
It said constitutional challenge or deformity of any officer of the party cannot render it illegal.
The court, therefore, held that notwithstanding the defects in the letter forwarding the nomination and sponsorship of Oyetola and his running mate to INEC, the fact that they emerged from a valid primary cannot be ruled out.
It maintained that the defect of Buni signing the letter conveying the nomination of the appellants cannot be a ground to reject the results and desire of the party’s primary election.
Regarding the question of immunity of Buni, who submitted the nomination of the appellants to INEC, the court equally held that Buni cannot be sued because the immunity enjoyed by him protected him against civil and criminal suits.
The court questioned Nwite for his failure not to consider a classical precedent judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in the Jegede v INEC case before he arrived at his judgment.
It also awarded the cost of N200,000 in favour of the appellants.
Meanwhile, the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal yesterday admitted in evidence the file with INEC, containing the secondary school certificate and testimonial of Governor Adeleke.
This is just as the petitioners, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola and the APC closed their case yesterday, leaving respondents to state their defence.
The admission of the documents followed the appearance of INEC representative, Mrs. Joan Arabs, who brought Adeleke’s original files containing the certificate he submitted to the commission in 2018.
At the last sitting of the panel, the commission had submitted a blank document as the secondary school certificate of the governor, a situation that compelled the panel to order that the original file be brought, and to threaten to invoke coercive power, if it fails to do so.
At the resumed hearing of the petition yesterday, counsel for Oyetola, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said the hearing for the day was basically meant for the appearance of INEC representative to produce the Adeleke’s file in line with the court order.
Counsel for INEC, in his response, said the commission’s representative was already in court with the files containing a clearer and legible certificate and testimonial in question, noting he would be willing to apply for the return of the documents to INEC, when the tribunal is done looking at it.
After the production of the documents, the tribunal, while discharging the INEC official, said, “You can now go if you wish to. No policeman will accost you again.”
Subsequently, Oyetola’s counsel sought to tender the documents which contain form CFO01 and its attachments, including Adeleke’s credentials, saying the original file brought to court is a primary evidence and he was comfortable with it.
Counsel for INEC, Chief Henry Agunedo (SAN), said he would be objecting to the admissibility of the documents on the grounds that the basis for the production of the whole file was because only two pages of the earlier-produced Certified True Copies were in contention, saying tendering the whole documents was out of place.
Counsel for Adeleke and PDP, Niyi Owolade and Alex Izinyon (SAN) respectively, said they had objection to the tendering of the said documents, but they would reserve their objections till final address stage.
Izinyon also observed that the only documents in contention were only two pages, which are Adeleke’s certificate and testimonial, saying the CTC earlier produced has not been tendered before the court.
Responding, Fagbemi said the practice everywhere was that INEC could only apply and get back the files after the dispensation of the cases, saying, “We asked for CTC and now that they brought this. We are fine, we will take it”.
Ruling on the documents tendered, the tribunal led by Justice Tertsea Kume admitted the credentials and the Adeleke’s nomination form as exhibit ‘FILE D’ and taken as read.
It was after the tribunal admitted the documents that Fagbemi informed the panel that he had decided to close his case, saying, “My Lord, we rest our case”.
When the tribunal asked INEC to open his defence, Chief Agunedo said it would be difficult for him to open his case on Monday, saying non-availability of his witnesses would make it practically impossible.
The panel then asked the counsel to meet and agree on adjournment date after which counsel for INEC briefed the panel the outcome of the meeting.
Subsequently, the tribunal adjourned the case till December 20, 2022 for the respondents to open their defence, saying the adjournment was based on another engagement by the tribunal somewhere else between 12th and 19th December 2022.