*Orders INEC to issue Certificate of Return to Oyetola
*It’s a miscarriage of justice, I will appeal — Adeleke
*Akeredolu, Gbajabiamila, CUPP, others react
By Shina Abubakar, Osogbo
Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal yesterday sacked Governor Ademola Adeleke and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, to withdraw the certificate of return issued to him and issue a fresh one to Oyetola as the duly elected governor of Osun. The tribunal held that Adeleke did not score the majority of lawful votes during the July 16 governorship election in the state.
In his immediate reaction, Ademola Adeleke described the tribunal judgment as “a miscarriage of justice” and vowed to file an appeal before the Court of Appeal.
Adeleke, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was declared the winner of the governorship poll held on July 16. In August 2022, Gboyega Oyetola, former Osun governor, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) petitioned the tribunal to challenge the victory of Adeleke on the grounds that Adeleke did not qualify to contest the election and that there was overvoting in 749 polling units across 10 local government areas of the state.
Delivering judgment on Friday, two out of the three-member panel of the tribunal held that Oyetola could prove that there was indeed over-voting in some of the polling units.
Consequently, the majority judgment of the tribunal ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Adeleke and issue a fresh one to Oyetola as the duly elected governor of Osun.
Adeleke rejects verdict, heads to Appeal Court
Adeleke, in his reaction, said the judgment “is an unfair interpretation against the will of the majority of voters. I call on our people to remain calm. We will appeal the judgement and we are sure justice will be done. Let our people be reassured that we will do everything possible to retain this widely acclaimed mandate”, he added..
During the trial, the petitioner’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN called two witnesses in support of their case. Paul Ananaba of INEC called a witness, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, on behalf of Adeleke called two witnesses while Alex Iziyon, counsel to PDP, did not call any witness.
The three-man panel, comprising Justices Tertse Kume, P. Agbuli and Rabi Bashir, in a split judgement of two-to-one formed three issues for resolution which include whether the second respondent, Adeleke, was qualified to contest the position of governor, whether there was substantial non compliance and whether there was over voting. The majority judgement read by Justice Tertse Kume, panel Chairman, resolved the issue of qualification in favour of Adeleke and held that “as at the time of the election, he is duly qualified to contest”.
On second and third issues, the tribunal held, that the conduct of the election was not in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act as amended. According to the tribunal, “the defences of the respondents are tainted with fundamental flaws, irreconcilable and unreliable, incapable of defeating the credible evidence tendered by the petitioners in respect of the 744 polling units where over voting has been established.
“The inference we hereby draw from the fact established by the evidence and record is that the election conducted on the 16th day of July 2022 was done in substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Acts and extant regulations. Moreover, exhibit BVR has not been withdrawn by the first respondent who made and issued it. The petitioners relied on exhibit BVR in maintaining this petition.
“Similarly, the exhibit tendered by the respondents after exhibit BVR submitted by learned counsel to the petitioners was thought of after the declaration of the result on the 17th day of July, 2022.
“The said conduct of the respondents, especially, the first respondent amounts to tampering with official records. The conduct of the first respondent in the said election under consideration has produced multiple accusation reports, contrary to the declaration of the vote, to conduct of free, fair and credible elections on the basis of one man or woman with one vote.
“Consequently, to forestall manipulation of BIVAS machines in the conduct of elections in Nigeria by the first respondent, the presiding officers at the polling units and other key officers of the first respondent should act on the vest won by them.
“During the conduct of elections, an electronic device embedded in a safety vest which would have helped you to collect data and information transmittable to a server domiciled either to the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force, NIGCOMSAT, the National Secretary Adviser, independent of the first respondent. The data stored at the server in any of the said offices will be a resource material for investigation and possible prosecution of any infraction that may occur in the use of the BIVAS in the polling units during the conduct of elections.
“We find as a fact that the voting occurred in the election conducted on the 16th day of July 2022 in the manner stated in the table in paragraph 6.19 of the petitioner’s final written address already reproduced in this judgement, the duty of this tribunal is to deduct the said invalid votes from the lawful votes of the first petitioner and the first respondent to determine who have the majority of lawful votes at the said election.
“The table produced on page 30 paragraph 7.01 of the petitioner’s final written address in response to the first respondent’s final written address on page 17 paragraph 6.21 on the petitioner’s final address shows a graphic demonstration of the lawful votes after the deduction of the said invalid votes cast.
“For the sake of emphasis, the total lawful vote cast for each of the candidates after the said deduction of invalid votes is 314,931 for the first petitioner and 290,266 votes for the second respondent.
“The second respondent did not score a majority of lawful votes cast for the election. The declaration and return are hereby declared null and void, the second respondent can not “go low low and buga won” as duly elected governor of Osun state in the election conducted on July 16th 2022, see Kiss Daniel song, Buga. Rather, we hereby hold that the first petitioner scored the majority of lawful votes in the said election and is hereby returned as such.
“The first respondent is hereby directed to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the second respondent and give the first petitioner Certificate of Return as the duly elected governor.”
Meanwhile in his dissenting judgement, Justice Agbuli held that relying on exhibit BVR to reach the conclusion of the judgement is not reasonable.
According to him, “it is remarkable to note that the petitioners did not controvert the exhibit RBVR series and the report of physical inspection, that is exhibit RWC, they stand unchallenged and I so hold.
“Exhibit RWC is a document made from the time resources which are the machines used on Election Day. The exhibit on RWC is in existence and was there on the machine date of the election. Section 64 sub 4,5 and 6 of the electoral act recognized BVAS machines as a key material to be used in the collation of results and in the resolution of any dispute arising therefrom.
“The petitioners are not saying that the entries on exhibit RBVM series which is the machine itself are not the same as the entries in exhibit RWC, their grouse is that since exhibit RWC came from the same first respondent it will not be allowed to stand in view of the discrepancies of figures in them via-a-vis the entries.
“In view of the following I hold that exhibit BVR is a product of inadequacies and can not be the best evidence for the determination of the accurate number of accredited voters on the 16th July 2022 election. The same is true of exhibit RBVR the best evidence to that regard is RBVL, 1-119 down to RBVL 1-59 used in the polling units under contest and I so hold”, he added. He then struck out the petition and upheld the election of Ademola Adeleke as the Governor.
PDP supporters protest
Meanwhile, some members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Osogbo, Osun state capital protested against the verdict sacking Governor Ademola Adeleke.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as, “Osun citizens reject Oyetola”, “On Imole Mandate We Stand”, “Imole has Come to Stay”, and “Tribunal Panel Is Not Fair On Today’s Judgement” among others. They barricaded the Olaiya flyover for about 30 minutes obstructing vehicular movements at the busy junction.
The protesters mainly from Osogbo local government were seen walking from the Asubiaro area of the state capital singing solidarity songs and terminating their protest at the flyover.
INEC is the beneficiary of the judgement – Oyetola
Meanwhile, former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola said “there is no victor, no vanquish, it is a collective victory for our state and our nation’s democracy. I am happy that the judge resolved the controversy of the July 16th 2022 governorship election.
INEC is the greatest beneficiary of the judgement, it will afford them the opportunity to look at all the anomalies and make necessary adjustments to prevent such mistakes again now that the general election is coming. I thank the people of the state and supporters for standing by us for their courage and loyalty, I want to assure them that we are ready to continue to serve them”.
Osun verdict, affirmation of Buhari’s tech-based electoral reforms -APC
The ruling All Progressives Congress APC said “the decision of the tribunal is an affirmation of broad-based electoral reforms initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari which has seen greater deployment of technology by the electoral umpire to expose over-voting and other election rigging methods”.
Party spokesman, Felix Morka in a statement issued Friday in Abuja noted that the tribunal’s verdict represents a victory for democracy and the rule of law. According to him, “the Tribunal’s findings and verdict on the pivotal question of over-voting yet again underscores the massive significance of the programme of electoral reform and new and efficient technologies implemented by the APC administration of President Muhammadu Buhari”.
People’s mandate finally restored—— Rep Gbajabiamila
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, in his reaction, said that with the judgement, APC remained the party to beat at all times even at the forthcoming general elections.
Noting that the people of Osun State have been vindicated by the verdict, Gbajabiamila called on all APC members in the state and across the country to remain law-abiding and brace up for the general elections. He however urged Oyetola to be magnanimous in victory at the end of the whole process.
Akeredolu says the will of the people has prevailed
Chairman of the South West Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, in a statement by his Chief Press. Secretary, Richard Olatunde, said “the Tribunal judgement has again restored the hope of a common man and reinforced confidence in the judiciary. We received with delight, the news of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal which declared Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola as the winner of the July 16 governorship election in the State.
This is indeed a victory for democracy. No doubt, the judgment will further consolidate and deepen our country’s democratic values and Election Petitions jurisprudence.
“It will also sustain the faith of the people in our democratic process. The will of the people has prevailed.
CUPP faults Tribunal judgement
On its part, the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, faulted the judgment of the Osun State Election Petitions tribunal which sacked Governor Ademola Adeleke, describing it as a “black market purchased judgment”.
CUPP, in a statement by its Co-National Spokesperson, Mr Mark Adebayo said: “We are not perturbed because justice will eventually be done on this case.
It is a temporary attempt to rob the Osun State people of their sovereign will and the judicial process through its remedial mechanisms will do real justice to correct this anomalous injustice in the name of justice. That it was a split decision judgment says a lot about its lack of merit. The mandate willfully given by the Osun State people to Governor Adeleke remains intact and any attempt to steal it will fail woefully.”
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