By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Supreme Court, on Friday, upheld the election victory of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgment by a five man panel of Justices, dismissed an appeal the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its governorship candidate in the state, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, filed to challenge Fayemi’s victory.
In the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Iyang Okoro, the Supreme Court, said it had no reason to dislodge concurrent decisions of both the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which held that the case of the appellants lacked merit.
“I am satisfied to hold that there is no merit in this appeal. It has to be noted that in this case, the two courts below are concurrent in their findings.
“This court is always hesitant to interfere with concurrent decisions of the lower courts”, Justice Iyang held.
He said the apex court would only intervene where an appellant was able to establish ” clear errors that occasioned miscarriage of Justice”.
“This appeal has no merit and it is accordingly dismissed. I affirm judgement of the lower court”, he added
The apex court panel was headed by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad.
It will be recalled that the appellate court had also in a judgment by a three-man panel of Justices, affirmed the July 28 verdict of the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which declared Fayemi as the bonafide winner of the July 14, 2018, gubernatorial election in the state.
The panel, led by Justice Stephen Adah, said it had no reason to set-aside the decision of the tribunal.
Justice Adah who gave only a summary of the appellate court’s verdict, resolved seven issues PDP and Olusola distilled in their appeal, against them.
Cited as Respondents in the matter were Fayemi, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the APC.
INEC had declared Fayemi winner with a total of 197,459 votes as against 178,121 votes that was polled by Olusola.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Olusola and his party, PDP, went to court.
In their petition marked EPT/BKS/GOV/01/18, the petitioners prayed the tribunal to sack Fayemi on the premise that the governorship election was not only flawed, but conducted without substantial compliance to the Electoral Act.
They further contended that Fayemi was not qualified to participate in the contest, having been earlier indicted in a report by a commission of inquiry that was constituted by the Ekiti State Government to probe his first term in office as governor.
Prof. Olusola prayed the tribunal to declare him governor, insisting that he secured the highest number of validly cast votes.
However, the Respondents, through their lawyers, Chief Charles Edosomwan, SAN, Akin Olujinmi, SAN, and Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, persuaded the tribunal to dismiss the petition which they argued was grossly incompetent.
The Respondents, aside contending that the petitioners failed to prove their allegation that the election was marred by irregularities, further drew attention of the tribunal that the said report that indicted Fayemi had since been quashed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
They insisted that the petitioners failed to discharge the burden of prove placed on them by the law, adding that various portions of the petition were vague.
Whereas the PDP candidate called a total of 71 witnesses that testified before the tribunal, Fayemi closed his defence after he produced four witnesses that testified on his behalf.
In its verdict, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to by way of credible evidence, prove that the election was marred by irregularities.
The lead verdict was read by Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Suleiman Belgore.
According to him, both PDP and its candidate were unable to substantiate their claim that the governorship election in many polling units were characterized by lack of accreditation, over-voting, mutilation of results, inaccurate ballot account, snatching of election of materials, inducement of voters, irreconcilable figures and cancellation of results at polling units where they secured highest number of votes.
Justice Belgore held that “scanty evidence” the petitioners laid before the tribunal was not sufficient to warrant the annulment of votes credited to the APC.
He stressed that inability of the petitioners to call adequate witnesses to testify with regards to the polling units where the alleged irregularities occurred, amounted to dumping of evidence before the tribunal without pleadings.
Justice Belgore held that in the absence of credible evidence substantiated with pleadings, all the allegations raised by the petitioners were therefore deemed abandoned.
“Evidence of facts not pleaded goes to nothing”, the tribunal’s Chairman held.
He said the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, with respect to the Ekiti state governorship election, would continue to enjoy the presumption of regularity, until such presumption is displaced with credible evidence.
The tribunal held that scanty evidence before it, “did not resolve presumption of regularity in favour of the petitioners”.