By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, fixed December 5 to commence hearing on the petition challenging the declaration of Isiaka Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of the last gubernatorial election in the state.
The three-man panel tribunal headed by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, directed all the parties in the petition to file and exchange the necessary legal processes before the adjourned date.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its gubernatorial candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, had approached the tribunal, praying it to declare that Oyetola was not the valid winner of either the substantive poll that held on September 22 or the re-run election that took place on September 27.
The petitioners 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 bona-fide winner of the governorship contest.
They told the tribunal that the election was characterized by massive rigging, vote buying and other forms of malpractices, claiming that PDP scored majority of the lawful votes in the election.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceeding on Monday, the tribunal deferred hearing on the matter after all the parties conceded that they needed to file and exchange all necessary documents and processes relating to the issues in dispute.
While adjourning the case, Justice Sirajo stressed the need for lawyers in the matter to cooperate with his tribunal to enable it to discharge its mandate within the time allowed by law.
He said the tribunal could abridge time for the parties where necessary in order to ensure quick dispensation of the petition within the ambit of the law.
The Respondents, comprising of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, APC, and Oyetola, had informed the tribunal that they were yet to be served with some processes of the petitioners.
Consequently, Justice Sirajo directed the Secretary of the tribunal to furnish them with copies in the court’s file so as to avoid any delay in hearing of the matter.
It will be recalled that the tribunal had previously restrained INEC from tampering with the election results or information contained in the card reader machines and other documents used for the poll.
The court gave the order on the basis of an ex-parte application that was filed by the petitioners.
Adeleke had through his counsel, Mr. Nathaniel Oke, SAN, also applied for leave of the tribunal to inspect and obtain certified true copies of electoral documents and materials in the custody of INEC, an order to conduct physical inspection and verification of electoral materials and machines, as well as used and unused ballots.
He further applied for an order to compel INEC to produce and print out list of permanent voter card distribution statistics per polling units and an order restraining INEC from altering extracted information from card readers, election results from polling unit level to state level, as well as ballot papers used for the conduct of the governorship election in Osun State.
He told the tribunal that the total votes he garnered on September 22 was 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. That by 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 an examination of the electoral documents and election materials in the custody of the 3rd respondent is required to determine the actual facts and records of the elections to maintain this petition.
“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.
“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. That instant allocation is required for the purpose of instituting and maintaining the petition”, he added.