…Declares Adeleke winner
…Says re-run election illegal
…Jubilation in Osogbo, Ede
…Oyetola appeals judgment, calls for calm
By Gbenga Olarinoye, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Dirisu Yakubu
IT was wild jubilation yesterday in Osogbo, Osun State capital and Ede, the country home of the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ademola Adeleke as the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday nullified the election of All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Mr Adegboyega Oyetola and declared Adeleke as the valid winner of the September 2018 governorship election in the state.
Reacting to the tribunal’s judgment, Senator Adeleke, in his twitter handle simply said, “to God be the glory”.
The APC however said it rejected the judgment while its candidate, Governor Oyetola said an appeal had already been filed against the tribunal’s decision and appealed for calm.
The tribunal, in a split decision of two-to-one, said it was satisfied that there was merit in the petition the PDP and Adeleke lodged against the declaration and return of Adegboyega Oyetola of the APC as winner, based on the outcome of a supplementary governorship election that held in the state on September 27, 2018.
It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had at the end of an initial election it conducted on September 22, cancelled results from seven polling units in four Local Government Areas in the state, and ordered a re-run poll. At the end of the re-run poll, INEC declared Oyetola winner which was disputed by Senator Adeleke who filed a petition before the tribunal challenging INEC’s declaration.
The tribunal, in a lead ruling that was delivered by Justice Peter Obiora yesterday noted that none of the parties before it disputed the fact that it was the State Returning Officer that cancelled the initial election
The tribunal held that the State Returning Officer acted beyond the power that was allocated to him under the Electoral Act when he voided results and ordered supplementary election in the affected areas.
“We hold that the cancellation was unlawful and ultra-vires of his powers. The cancellation cannot stand, being a product of illegality”, the tribunal held.
According to the tribunal, the onus was on Presiding Officers in polling units where the alleged electoral infractions took place, to cancel the result and report same to Ward Collation Officers.
It held that upon receipt of the complaints, the Collation Officer was mandated by the law to fill Form EC40G and submit to the Local Government Collation Officer who will in turn transfer the information in the Form EC40GI and hand same over to the State Collation Returning Officer.
The tribunal held that in the absence of evidence that it was Presiding Officers of the seven Polling Units that cancelled the results, the action of the State Returning Officer amounted to an act of illegality.
Besides, the tribunal invalidated the outcome of the re-run election on the premise that it was not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended.
It dismissed contention of both APC and Oyetola that Adeleke and PDP were stopped from querying the legality of the re-run election since they also took part in the process.
Maintaining that the petitioners successfully established a case of non compliance in 17 polling units during the initial election of September 22, 2018, the tribunal, went ahead and deducted votes that were credited to both PDP and APC in those units.
Specifically, the tribunal, in its majority verdict, deducted a total of 2029 votes that were credited to APC in the 17 polling units, as well as a total of 1246 votes that were recorded in favour of the PDP.
After it had deducted the illegal votes from both sides, the panel held that Adeleke got a total of 253,777 valid votes, ahead of Oyetola who it said got 253,476 valid votes in the September 22, poll.
The tribunal went ahead and nullified the Certificate of Return that was issued to Oyetola by INEC, and ordered the issuance of a fresh one to Adeleke.
It equally awarded a cost of 200,000.00 against Oyetola and the APC.
Earlier in the judgment that lasted more than six hours, the tribunal took a swipe at INEC after it confirmed that there were alterations in Certified True Copies of result sheets (Form EC8A) which were issued to the petitioners and tendered in evidence.
The tribunal noted that figures in the said CTCs were different from what were contained in the signed pink/duplicate copies that were handed to party agents at the end of the governorship election.
It held that evidence adduced before it revealed that INEC issued result sheets from same polling units and serial number, that contained different information.
“We have no doubt that the alterations were made after the election had been concluded at the polling units and after agents had gone with clean copies”.
The tribunal held that neither INEC nor APC which had agents in all the polling units, was able to give any reason behind alterations that were observed on the result sheets.
“It is important to note that the 2nd and 3rd Respondents (APC and Oyetola) had agents in all the polling units, yet they failed to call any evidence or agent to say that he or she was present when the alteration was made”.
The tribunal said it was convinced that the alterations were a function of a deliberate conspiracy “to achieve a desired result in all the affected areas”.
Consequently, the panel upheld results contained in the clean copies that were tendered by the petitioners as genuine and regular.
More so, it noted that whereas eight mandatory columns that ought to have been filled by the electoral body, including details of number of registered/accredited voters in each of the disputed areas, were left vacant in pink copies of the result sheets, they were filled in the CTC of the result sheet that was subsequently altered by INEC.
Nevertheless, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove their allegation that there was over-voting in various polling units. It held that the allegation was deemed abandoned.
Though the panel noted that the Voters Register was the essential element in proving allegation of over-voting, it held that the petitioners failed to call witnesses to link contents of the Registers to their case.
It noted that none of the 38 polling agents the petitioners produced to testify in the matter, spoke to bundles of Voters Register it said were “merely dumped” on the tribunal.
On allegation that the Osun Governorship election was marred by violence, the tribunal held that such allegation, being criminal in nature, ought to be proved beyond every reasonable doubt.
In the final analysis, Justice Obiora held that the petition was meritorious and ought to be allowed.
A third member of the panel, Justice Ayinla Gbolagunte, concurred with the lead judgment and declared Adeleke winner of the Osun governorship election.
However, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, said he disagreed with the verdict, insisting that the petition lacked merit and ought to be dismissed.
Justice Sirajo held that the re-run election was valid since the petitioners did not contend in their pleadings that results were cancelled, but that it was declared inconclusive.
“Mere declaration of the election as inconclusive did not imply that the election was cancelled”, Justice Sirajo held.
He held that the witnesses did not prove details of alleged non-compliance in either the substantive or the supplementary poll.
Likewise, Justice Sirajo held that the tribunal lacked the powers to subtract votes that were declared invalid.
He held that under section 140 of the Electoral Act, the tribunal was only empowered to order a re-run or fresh election where it was established that there was substantial non compliance to the Electoral Act.
Consequently, he dismissed the petition and awarded N200,000.00 cost against Adeleke and the PDP.
Justice Sirajo however said he concurred with aspect of the lead judgment that indicted INEC of engaging in electoral malpractices.
The tribunal had before the judgment, dismissed preliminary objections the Respondents filed to challenge the competence of the petition. Meanwhile, there was wild jubilation at the court premises immediately the judgment was delivered, with Adeleke’s supporters, chanting and dancing with PDP flag.
It was a case of mixed feelings for those from the camp of the APC candidate, just as their lawyers expressed confidence that the lead verdict would be upturned by the Court of Appeal.
The petitioners had through their team of lawyers led by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, prayed the tribunal to declare that Oyetola was not the valid winner of either the substantive poll that held on September 22, 2018, or the re-run election that took place on September 27, 2018.
They alleged that the re-run poll was marred by manifest irregularities, even as they urged the tribunal to nullify Oyetola’s election and declare Adeleke as the bona-fide winner of the governorship contest.
The petitioners insisted 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.
Adeleke told the tribunal 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. 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 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”, the Petitioners added.
The petitioners argued that INEC ought to have declared Adeleke as 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 winner of the election.
The petitioners maintained 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, INEC, 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.
On his part, Oyetola’s lawyer, Chief Olanipekun, SAN, 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.
Jubilation in Osogbo, Ede
The tribunal verdict yesterday elicited wild jubilation in Osogbo the state capital and Ede, the country home of Senator Ademola Adeleke. The jubilant crowd started dancing from the palace of Timi of Ede, Oba Munirudeen Adesola to the heart of the town where other people joined them as they danced through the major roads of the town before they ended up at the residence of late Isiaka Adeleke where the event was turned into carnival.
Adeleke’s supporters and well-wishers gathered at the late Isiaka Adeleke’ house to celebrate the tribunal victory amid drumming and dancing.
The supporters also gathered at different strategic locations in Ede celebrating the victory.
Speaking, the elder sister of Senator Adeleke, Mrs. Dupe Adeleke Sanni who dedicated her brother’s victory to their late brother, Isiaka Adeleke said his spirit would also come alive in his grave with the victory.
She praised the judiciary in Nigeria for its courage in adjudicating with the fear of God, saying it is now clear that judiciary can save the nation from imminent trouble.
She appreciated the people of Osun State, especially her town, Ede, for the love they have for the Adeleke family.
She said, “we are very happy for the judgment, we appreciate the people of Osun, especially Ede for their love, support and steadfastness. Today’s judgement is an indication that judiciary can save this nation from imminent trouble. I know my late brother would be very happy in his grave. I dedicate this victory to God and to the memory of my late brother”, she said.
Meanwhile, Osun State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has expressed delight at the victory of its governorship candidate in the 2018 governorship election.
The party’s Chairman, Soji Adagunodo in a chat with newsmen in Osogbo, said the victory was an act of God. Adagunodo said that he knew from the outset of the party’s struggle for the mandate that God Almighty would do justice and had done it.
He dedicated the victory to God Almighty and the people of the state. “I thank God Almighty for the victory and we dedicate it to Him. It is a victory for the people of the state. It is a victory for all,” Adagunodo said.
” I commend the good people of Osun for their faith in the PDP and Senator Adeleke.”
He also commended the Nigerian judiciary, saying that they did a good job by standing on the truth.
The PDP chairman also expressed confidence in the judiciary, saying: “The judgement shows that the people in the judiciary are people of impeccable character.”
“They are the last hope of the common man and have proved themselves as such. I give kudos to the judiciary.
Adagunodo, however, said that the party was ready for appeal if the APC decided to appeal the case. “It’s normal. If they decide to appeal the case, we are ready. We are testing the Nigerian judiciary and we are testing the Nigerian democracy.
Meanwhile, All Progressives Congress (APC), said it had rejected the verdict and would appeal the case.
The party’s Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Kunle Oyatomi said in a statement: “The Election Petition Tribunal verdict has declared Adeleke the winner of the 2018 governorship election in the state.
According to the party, the verdict cannot stand a superior legal scrutiny. Therefore we will appeal against it.”
Similarly, the state Government in a statement by the Secretary to the government, Mr. Wole Oyebamiji said, “it wishes to appreciate the teeming support of the majority of the people in all things essential for mutual progress.
“As it is, the administration of Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola, Governor, State of Osun wishes to assure the people that the judgment of the Election Tribunal has been put on appeal.
“This is to further assure all the residents of the State of adequate security of lives and property as the Government of the State is still the only legitimate Government having the authority to govern the State. We assure all our people that justice will prevail at last, and the law enforcement agencies have been instructed to maintain law and order across the State.
“We therefore urge all the residents of the State to go about their lawful duties without any hindrance. We thank you”, the statement added.
PDP hails Adeleke’s victory
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has lauded the verdict of the Osun State governorship election tribunal, which upheld the victory of its candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke on Friday, describing the judgement as a victory for democracy and the will of the people.
In a statement signed by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party described the judgment as “a clear indicator that those who set out to destroy our democracy can never triumph and that no matter how evil and injustice appear to thrive, the truth must always prevail at the end of the day.
The statement further read: “Nigerians have accepted democracy as a way of life and a form of government that suits the multi-plurality of our nation.
“The spontaneous jubilation that greeted this judgment is therefore a direct indication that it is in consonant with the wishes and aspiration of Nigerians across the board.
“For those who have been desperate to destroy our democracy, this judgment has proved to them that their shenanigans will always come to no avail.
“The PDP commends the judiciary for standing upright in the defence of democracy and for ensuring that those involved in the rapacious desecration of our democratic norms will never succeed.
“This verdict, which reverberates across our nation, points to the fact that the truth will always prevail and that our party, the PDP, will recover all our stolen mandates in the 2019 general elections, particularly, the Presidential mandate, which Nigerians freely gave to our candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
“Furthermore, all our candidates who have already won their elections, but whose victories are being manipulated by anti-democratic forces, must take solace in the words of the Osun election petition panel, that once valid votes have been declared and a winner emerges by majority of votes, a rerun is illegal.”
The party congratulated Senator Adeleke, the good people of Osun state as well as all lovers of democracy across our country “for the triumph of justice over impunity, abuse of electoral processes and unfettered political rascality.”
Meanwhile, Atiku has hailed the judgement, describing the judiciary as “defender of our democracy.” In a tweet on his verified twitter handle, @atiku, the former Vice President wrote: “Truly, the judiciary is the last hope of the common man and the defender of our democracy. Congratulations Senator Ademola Adeleke. ”
Similarly, the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, while reacting to the ruling described the development as the affirmation of the supremacy of the ballot.
In a statement issued by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochin-yere, the group said it received with joy the news of the declaration of Senator Ademola Adeleke as the winner of the Osun State governorship election by the Osun Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
The statement reads: “The CUPP sees the judgement of the tribunal as victory for democracy and affirmation of the supremacy of the sanctity of the ballot.
“The tribunal has given hope to Nigerians with this courageous decision to sack the governor who was foisted on the people of Osun State through the barrel of gun instead of the ballot.
“The rampaging electoral robbery of the Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progresives Congress, APC, is beginning to crumble in their face with the determination of the judiciary to stand firm, despite monetary inducements and threats.
“Today’s (yesterday’s) judgement has reinforced the hope of the opposition that there is still men and women on the bench who, even in the face of rampage to destroy the judiciary, can still stand firm and do the right thing.
“We are hopeful that the Appeal Court and Supreme Court judges will be bold enough to send the 2019 mandate thieves out office when the time comes.”
It’s victory for democracy — Ekweremadu
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has congratulated the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the Osun State 2018 governorship election, Senator Ademola Adeleke, on his victory at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Friday.
Ekweremadu, who took to the Tribunal’s verdict on his social media handle @Iamekweremadu, noted that the constitution amendments to ensure that unlawful mandates were not enjoyed for long were paying off.
He said: “I congratulate Senator Adeleke and the good people of Osun State on the restoration of their mandate. This is victory for the sanctity of the ballot box, victory for the rule of law, and indeed victory for democracy.
“It is for reasons such as the travesty visited on the people of Osun State that the National Assembly amended the constitution in 2010 and 2018 to set a timeframes for the determination of both election petitions and pre-election matters, respectively, to ensure that unlawful mandates are not enjoyed for long. I knew it wouldn’t take long and the true will of Osun people would prevail. It is indeed another Happy day for democracy”.