The Supreme Court is set to give a final ruling on who, between two candidates, was duly elected governor of Osun State last year.
A seven-member panel of the court, led by Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria Ibrahim Tanko, slated Friday for judgement on the matter after entertaining arguments from parties on June 17.
The PDP candidate in the September 22 and 27 elections, Ademola Adeleke, filed a petition at the Election Petition Tribunal to challenge the victory of the governor-elect, Gboyega Oyetola, of the APC.
The main election was held on September 22 while a supplementary election was held on September 27 in seven polling units.
The electoral commission, INEC, declared Mr Oyetola winner of the election after the supplementary poll.
Mr Adeleke, who claimed he polled the highest number of votes in the election, asked the tribunal to cancel the victory of Mr Oyetola and declare him the winner of the election.
The Osun tribunal ruled in Mr Adeleke’s favour and declared him the winner of the election. In a split judgment of two to one, the tribunal ruled that INEC was wrong to have ordered a rerun election. It nullified the rerun.
The court also ruled that INEC did not comply with its guidelines on results from 17 polling units.
The tribunal then deducted the results of both parties from the declared total of votes in the affected 17 poling units.
According to the tribunal, the PDP won the election with 254,698 votes, while the APC came second with 253,452 votes.
The tribunal also said that the PDP would still have won the poll even if it had opted to validate the supplementary election.
But in a contrary opinion in May, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the tribunal was in patent error when it set aside the rerun.”
The appellate court, which had also delivered its verdict in a split decision of four to one, ruled that the judge who issued the majority decision at the tribunal, Peter Obiora, was absent on February 6, 2019, when a major discussion on the issue of none-compliance was tabled before the tribunal; and could therefore not have viewed the issue squarely.
Apparently dissatisfied, Mr Adeleke approached the Supreme Court which will now rule today.
Follow this page for live updates of the proceedings
At 9:12- A four member panel of judges just entered the court room, leading to the resumption of the day’s ruling
The panel is led by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivor.
The lawyers began noting their appearances in court at 9:18 with a senior advocate, N. O. Oke appearing for the PDP. Abiodun Olaide and Biodun Layemi appeared for the respondents, Mr Oyetola and the APC.
Rhodes-Vivour is reading the judgement.
He observed that justice Peter Obiora did not sign a record to indicate that he was present at the tribunal on February 6
The court said its decision is that Justice Obiora did not sit on February 6.
It is now reading a list of authorities to show the consequences of Mr Obiora failing to sit on February sit at the tribunal.
“A complaint that one of the judges did not sit and proceded to deliver judgement is a serious matte,” he said.
“Failure of Obiora J to sit of February 6 rendered the proceedings of that day a nullity and the entire judgement a nullity.
It is a fundamental error”
“The absence of Obiora J to sit on that day made it impossible for the tribunal to render any judgement in the matter”,
The court ruled.
Mr Rhodes-Vivour added that five members of the panel agreed with the judgement while two others disagreed with it
Consequently the court threw out Mr Adeleke’s application and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Explaining their reasons for dissenting, two justices, Kumai Akaas and Paul Galinje, said “the actual record of the tribunal was not before the court of appeal.”
“The onus is on the APC to have proved that Obiora did not sit on February, 6. They should have sworn an affidavit,” the judges said.
They also held that it has been the precedence of the Supreme Court that judges do not have to sign the certified true copies of the judgement.
The judges who agreed that the absence of Mr Obiora would have resulted in the nulification of the judgement added that “the only way to affirm that was by producing the original court records.”
One of the dissenting judges, Kumai Akaas, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of rigging the elections during the rerun.
Mr Galinje said INEC had no cogent reasons to have conducted a rerun and added that “the decision of the commission to have pronounced that election inconclusive meant that INEC had something up it sleaves.”