Oyetola beats Adeleke at Appeal Court, remains Osun Governor

Oyetola has won his case against Senator Adeleke to remain Osun State governor

Senator Ademola Adeleke [Channels TV]

The court delivered judgements in three appeals and a cross-appeal filed before it after an election tribunal ruled in March 2019 that Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the election and not Oyetola who was sworn in last year.

Oyetola, a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared the winner of the election after winning a supplementary election in September 2018.

Adeleke's initial victory was declared inconclusive because the victory margin of 353 votes over Oyetola was less than the 3498 votes cancelled in seven polling units, a situation that required a supplementary election.

After the supplementary election, the poll closed with Oyetola winning a total 255,505 votes, 482 more votes than Adeleke's 255,023.

Adeleke kicked against the victory and contested the result before an election tribunal which declared him the correct winner and voided Oyetola's victory.

However, during its judgement on Thursday, May 9, 2019, a five-member panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Jummai Sankey, ruled in favour of Oyetola with only one member objecting.

In its initial ruling, the election tribunal had declared the supplementary election which significantly contributed to Oyetola's victory as illegal and also cancelled elections in 17 polling units alleging improper ballot accounting and accreditation details.

While delivering the majority judgement on Thursday, Justice Sankey resolved 10 out of the 12 issues raised in favour of Oyetola and the other two in favour of Ademola and his party who lost in all four judgements.

She ruled that the alleged absence of Justice Peter Obiorah, who read the tribunal's majority judgement in March, during a previous sitting in February, when two witnesses testified and tendered exhibits, nullified the tribunal's judgement.

Oyetola had argued that the judge could not have seen the two witnesses and properly examined them properly, making it unlawful for him to have authored a judgement in which he reviewed the evidence given by the witnesses. 

Justice Sankey said the judge's absence during a crucial part of the proceedings implied that the tribunal was not properly constituted.

"I declare the entire proceedings and the judgement of the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal a nullity. I hereby set aside the entire proceedings including the judgement," she ruled.

Justice Sankey also faulted the tribunal's decision to declare the supplementary election as illegal as well as cancelling results of 17 polling units even though Adeleke did not prove over-voting took place.

She said, "The absence of proper ballot accounting in the Forms EC8A in the 17 polling units is not a substantial non-compliance and did not substantially affect the results of the election.

"The only appropriate order is for a rerun election as provided under section 140(2) of the Electoral Act but not to recompute the results of the election and proceed to declare the 1st respondent or any other person the winner of the election.

"The tribunal was in patent error when it set aside the rerun election especially when it found that the conduct of the rerun was not marred by malpractices and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, leading to the unwarranted disenfranchisement of the voters in the seven polling units."

Justices Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju, and Bitrus Sanga, agreed with Justice Sankey's judgement.

In his dissenting judgement, Justice George Mbaba said Justice Obiorah's alleged absence during the February hearing was speculative and not enough grounds to nullify the tribunal's ruling that favoured Adeleke.

He said, "I think the allegation that Justice Obiorah did not sit on the 6th of February was founded on speculation and a well articulated speculation.

"It is curious that the record of the day showed that he did not sign on the 6th of February, but he signed on the 5th and the 7th, but curiously did not sign on 6th.

"There are very many inferences to be drawn, one is that the secretariat deliberately did not show that he signed. One cannot rule out the possibility of sabotage in the secretariat of the tribunal."

Adeleke is expected to contest the Appeal Court's judgement at the Supreme Court whose decision will be final.

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