Osun election tribunal reserves judgment on PDP’s petition

Senator Ademola Adeleke [Photo: TheCable]
Senator Ademola Adeleke [Photo: TheCable]

The Osun State Election Petition Tribunal has reserved judgment in the petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ademola Adeleke who contested the September 2018 gubernatorial election in the state.

The court said it would announce the date of its judgment in the next 48 hours.

A three-member panel of the tribunal presided over by Ibrahim Sirajo adjourned the matter after taking final addresses from parties on Thursday.

Mr Adeleke is challenging the declaration of the candidate for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gboyega Oyetola, as the winner of the governorship election.

Mr Adeleke’s lawyer, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, had accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC of colluding to rig the election in favour of Mr Oyetola

Before the date was given, the various lawyers adopted their addresses where they advanced arguments in favour of their various positions, before the tribunal.

In his argument, counsel to the INEC, Lasco Miwa, said the petitioner woefully failed to establish the issues contained in the petition. Mr Miwa asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition and award cost to Mr Adeleke and his party.

Counsel to the elected governor, Wole Olanikpekun also demanded a nullification of the petition.

According to Mr Olanikpekun, “the petition is futile and ‘confusive’.” Mr Olanikpekun submitted that applicants had admitted going against the election laws and should therefore not be requesting to be declared the winner of the same election.

He further argued that the petitioners, in their final written addresses, presented a different case from that mentioned in their pleadings earlier in court.

He said the petitioners did not provide anything which should be used to proceed with their case.

Citing the appeal court ruling on Wednesday, in the ex-parte motion filed by the Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atuki Abubakar, Mr Olanikpekun said the court granted all but one of the requests made by the applicant to the appellate court.

Mr Olanikpekun said the Court of Appeal in the very recent ruling noted that section 151 of the electoral act does not allow it to set aside INEC’s guidelines. He, therefore, argued that the request made by the petitioners were not worthy of approval by the tribunal.

Counsel to the APC, Akin Olujimi, also adopted the arguments of the first two respondents and told the court to dismiss the request by the petitioners for the aforementioned reasons and others brought forward by the senior lawyer.

According to Mr Olujimi, the major witnesses whose testimonies were heard in court gave similar responses to questions, in a manner that made their testimonies questionable.

He said the witnesses from the 63 polling units all gave similar testimonies, despite the fact that they were speaking about polling units which were different in many ways.

“What is strange is that even though they gave evidences relating to different polling units, there responses to questions were common. Outside the 63 witnesses, the remaining had nothing to do with the polling units,” Mr Olujimi said.

According to Mr Olujimi, “the witnesses tendered many documents. But, the important point is: “what use did they make of the document? It is settled law that you don’t just dump documents on the tribunal. The documents have no way of speaking for themselves.”

“What is worse, the petitioner called PW 74 who was a state polling agent and he purported to give evidence on almost every polling unit that the petitioner was alleging.

“To be fair to him, he noted that he was only speaking against the background of documents brought before him. It has been settled that the evidence of such a witness is absolutely invalid,” Mr Olujimi said.

“We urge your Lordship to hold that PW 74 has given evidence which will not in any way help the case of the petitioner,” he added.

In his final response, Mr Ikpeazu said his client ought to have been declared the winner of the election.

Mr Ikpeazu cited section 285 (13) of the Constitution as altered by the fourth alteration which states that “nobody can be declared elected unless he has participated in all stages of the election.”

“An election petition should question two things: undue return and undue election. There must not exist a return before any challenge can be mounted on the election. And a return was made following the rerun,” Mr Ikpeazu said.

The senior lawyer asked the tribunal to hold that the decision of the respondents to counter his addresses rather than prove the points in their own addresses meant that they had not made any attempt at addressing the court.

“Note that the second and the third respondents actually have no addresses before my lords, haven abandoned the issues established and made part of the report. A party seeking to deviate from its brief must ask for an amendment. This was not done,” Mr Ikpeazu said.

Regarding the argument brought by Mr Olujimi that the evidences brought forward were not proven before the court, Mr Ikpeazu said the court ruling cited by his fellow senior advocate did not relate to the conduct of witnesses in the instant case.

According to Mr Ikpeazu, none of what was mentioned in the cited judgment was done by his witnesses. Rather he said the witnesses made copious statements to back their evidences.

Mr Ikpeazu said the evidences tendered proved that his client ought to have been declared winner of the election. He further submitted that his witnesses’ testimonies were sufficient enough to push the burden of proof on the respondents.

He argued that INEC went beyond its powers when it decided to cancel results in some polling units.

“A returning officer cannot act beyond the provisions of Section 69. And INEC cannot act outside the provisions of Section 179. INEC on its own constituted an election petition and was cancelling and juxtaposing the election results,” Mr Ikpeazu said.

Before announcing the decision regarding its judgment date, the tribunal commended the senior lawyers for their conducts and urged junior lawyers to follow their lead.

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