The Osun State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja will today deliver judgment on the petition seeking to nullify the election of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Already there is tension in the camp of both parties who have started arriving Abuja with their supporters for the judgment.
The Justice Ibrahim Sirajo led three-man panel tribunal had on March 7, reserved judgment on the petition after all the parties in the matter adopted their final briefs of argument.
The election petition was lodged before the tribunal by the People’s Democratic Party(PDP), and its governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Justice Sirajo had informed all the parties that a date for the judgment
would be communicated to them.
Adeleke and his political platform, the PDP had through their team of lawyers led by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), urged the tribunal to declare that Governor Oyetola was not the valid winner of neither the substantive election that was conducted on September 22, 2018, nor the re-run election that took place on September 27, 2018.
The petitioners had alleged that the re-run poll was marred by manifest irregularities, even as they urged the court to nullify Oyetola’s election and declare Adeleke as the rightful winner of the governorship election.
They submitted before the tribunal
that the election was characterised by massive rigging, vote buying and other forms of malpractices, claiming that PDP scored the majority of the lawful votes in the election.
On his part, Adeleke claimed that the total votes he garnered on September 22 were 245,698 while the 1st Respondent scored 245,345.
“That the 1st applicant was the winner of the election and ought to have been so declared by the 3rd Respondent (INEC). That the 3rd Respondent declared the election inconclusive hence a rerun was conducted on the 27th day of September 2018.
“That the rerun election was marred by electoral violence, vote-buying, stuffing of ballot papers, multiple thumb-printing and voting and allocation of votes by the 3rd Respondent.
He further told the tribunal that the total actual and valid votes cast on the 22nd and 27th days of September 2018 respectively the elections were won by the applicants.
“That the 3rd Respondent wrongfully declared and returned the 1st Respondent as being duly elected and winner of the governorship election, Osun State held on 22nd day of September 2018 and the rerun election held on 27th day of September 2018 respectively.
They further added that “the 1st and 2nd applicants are dissatisfied with the said result of the election as announced by the returning officer of the governorship election, Osun State.”
It was the arguments of the petitioners that INEC ought to have declared Adeleke as the winner of the election, saying there was no need for the subsequent supplementary election.
“The 1st petitioner having satisfied the provisions of Section 179(2) of the Constitution, ought to have been declared duly elected.
“Aside non-compliance and irregularities that we have identified, the 1st petitioner clearly won the election based on overall votes,” Ikpeazu argued.
He told the tribunal that Adeleke merely participated in the supplementary election in view of Section 285(13) of the Constitution that stipulated that nobody should be declared elected except the person participated in all stages of the election. PDP and Adeleke said they tendered certified copies of mutilated and altered result sheets the INEC relied upon to declare Oyetola as the winner of the election. The petitioners insisted that having tendered the documents, the onus was on INEC to call witnesses to justify those errors and mutilations, by presenting any other result sheet it used. More so, they argued that INEC acted beyond its powers when it declared that the initial poll that took place on September 22, was inconclusive.
“A returning officer cannot act beyond Section 69 and INEC cannot act outside the provision of Section 179 of the Electoral Act.
“In this case, INEC on its own constituted an election petition tribunal and began to juxtapose and cancel election results,” Ikpeazu added.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to allow the appeal and grant all the reliefs sought by the petitioners.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Governor Oyetola and the APC, who were cited as respondents in the matter, urged the tribunal to dismiss the appeal on the premise that the petitioners failed to prove that the election was not free, fair and credible.
The respondents were represented by Mr. Lasco Pwahomdi, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, respectively.
INEC urged the tribunal to hold that the petitioners failed to establish the petition as required by law, saying it should be dismissed with substantial cost.
However, Governor Oyetola asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition for being unmeritorious and lacking incompetence.
Lead counsel to the governor, Chief Olanipekun, alleged that the petitioners had in their written address, not only admitted that they were complicit in the alleged electoral malpractices but also presented a different case from what was contained in their pleadings and reliefs they sought before the tribunal.
“They admitted that they were involved in illegality and prayed the tribunal to quash even some of their own votes. It is a settled law that a self-confessed petitioner who has in writing admitted to infringing the law, cannot be asked to be returned as winner of the election.
“They want your Lordships to nullify the Certificate of Return issued to the 2nd Respondent, the question is, where is that certificate? Are my lords magicians to nullify what is not before them? Our answer is no! The certificate is with us. We have cited several authorities in support of our position.”
Olanipekun drew the attention of the tribunal to Wednesday’s decision of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal in the case of Atiku Abubakar Vs INEC& two others, stressing that the ruling explained the extent to which a tribunal could go in line with Section 151 of the Electoral Act.