The supreme Court has upheld the election of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State.
The Supreme Court has upheld the election of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State and dismissed the appeals by Rotimi Akeredolu of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Olusola Oke of Peoples Democratic Party.
Justice Walter Ononghen, who led six other justices on the proceedings, had reserved their ruling and fixed judgment for August 29 after counsel to the parties in the case adopted their addresses.
Messrs Akeredolu and Oke had challenged the October 20, 2012 re-election of Mr. Mimiko of the Labour party (LP).
Mr. Akeredolu had prayed an order for a re-run election, while Mr. Oke sought for his declaration as governor.
They claimed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conspired with Mr. Mimiko to illegally add more than 90,000 fake voters in the voter register used for the election.
They further alleged that INEC failed to display the voter register before the election as mandated by the Electoral Act.
They said the election ought not to have been held as the processes leading to casting of votes were beclouded with `fraudulent’ actions.
The Akure Division of the Court of Appeal on July 2 dismissed the two appeals, and upheld Mr. Mimiko’s election.
The duo had filed separate appeals before the appellate court against the judgment of the Election Petitions Tribunal that had earlier dismissed their petitions.
The court held that the appellants failed to prove the allegations of substantial non-compliance of the 2012 election with Electoral Act 2010 as amended beyond reasonable doubt.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the appellate Court, Messrs Akeredolu and Oke approached the Supreme Court for what they called “further and better interpretation of the issues raised’’.
Wole Aina, who appeared for Mr. Akeredolu, urged the court to uphold his client’s relieves because the election was shrouded in “irregularities, fraud and conspiracy.”
In a swift interjection, Wole Olanipeku, counsel to Mr. Mimiko, urged the court to compel the counsel to the appellant to formerly announce the seeming extinction of ACN as a political party.
Mr. Olanipekun argued that the rules of the court compelled the ACN, which was the second appellant in the appeal to be struck out of the suit, having metamorphosed into the All Progressive Congress (APC) through a merger with other political parties.
However, Mr. Aina opposed Mr. Olanipeku’s submission, arguing that ACN’s status as an appellant still remained relevant.
“I am not oblivious of the fact that the party has gone through a process of merger resulting in a new political party called All Progressive Congress.
“This, I have read from the newspapers, and cannot be used as evidence. It is also left to be seen whether INEC has finally retrieved the party’s certificate of registration.
“So I urge the court to discountenance the ambush to frustrate the hearing of the appeal,’’ he said.
After a moment of pondering, Mr. Aina bowed to the pressure and filed an oral application for the substitution of the party with the APC as new appellant.
Mr. Olanipeku-led other counsel to the respondents to oppose the application, contending that such application ought to have been formally filed by officials of the APC.
They, therefore, prayed the court to summarily strike out ACN from the appeal, adding that the court lacked the jurisdiction to replace it with APC in the circumstance.
Giving a short ruling, Mr. Onoghen dismissed the application and ordered the striking out of ACN from the appeal.
“ACN has ceased to exist as a political party and by extension, a party in this appeal’’ he said.
Arguing the main appeal, Mr. Olanipeku, Yusuf Ali, counsel to LP, Onyechi Ikpeazu, counsel to INEC, jointly prayed the court to dismiss it.
They submitted that the appellant failed to prove the allegation of non-compliance to the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election.
Mr. Ikpeazu urged the court to discard the appellant’s affidavit that suggested that INEC accepted registering fake voters to assist Mimiko to gain upper hand in the election.
“My Lords, nothing of such happened as both the soft and hard copies of the voter register were given to all the political parties before the day of the election,’’ he said.
On the other appeal filed by the PDP Candidate, Lateef Fagbemi, counsel to Mr. Oke, urged the court to cancel the election.
“The court must stop the culture of impunity in the country’s electioneering by beginning to visibly punish offenders who benefit from such conspiracy theory like the one before you.
“We are here to tell the court that the election should not have held in view of the embellished voters register which gave the first respondent an edge over others,’’ Mr. Fagbemi said.
However, Oladipo Olanipekun, counsel to Mr. Mimiko, urged the court to dismiss the appeal, adding that the issues raised were not sustainable.
On whether the court had jurisdiction to entertain the appeals while the court is still on vacation, Wole Olanipeku led other counsel to challenge the action of the court.
They argued that the court was wrong to have shelved its vacation to attend to the appeal when a date in September was earlier fixed by the same court to hear it.
In his response, the presiding judge, Mr. Ononghen said the court derived its power from the constitution to cut-short the vacation to hear the appeals whose life would have expired on Aug 29.
“The 60 days set aside to dispose the appeals was billed to terminate on Aug. 29 and if we do not do this, it means the appeals will have been foreclosed without serving justice,” he held.
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