The Supreme Court will today deliver judgment in the appeals brought before it by the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2018 governorship election in Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, challenging the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which affirmed the election of Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the governor of the state.
Adeleke’s four appeals, marked: SC/553/2019; SC/554/2019; SC/555/2019 and SC/556/2019 are challenging the May 9, 2019 judgments of the Appeal Court, which held that Oyetola was validly elected as governor of Osun State.
The appellate court had also set aside the majority judgment of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal which had allowed Adeleke’s petition and declared him the winner of the election.
A seven-man panel of the appellate court, led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad heard the appeals last month and slated today, July 5, 2015, for judgment.
Adeleke had, in his appeals prayed the apex court to set aside the ruling of the appeal court and uphold the decision of the Tribunal, which declared him as the validly elected governor of Osun State.
Osun State Election Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had ruled that Senator Adeleke was the rightful winner of the 2018 governorship election, having satisfied the constitutional requirements of majority votes and spread across the local government areas of the state.
The tribunal also nullified the rerun election of September 27, 2018.
The Appeal Court had reversed the ruling, nullifying the decisions of the tribunal and reinstating Oyetola as the winner of the said election.
At the last sitting on the matter, the court took submissions from Adeleke’s counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) for the 1st respondent (Oyetola) in respect of appeal marked: SC/553/2019.
The court said its judgment in the main appeal – SC/553/2019 – will be applied to two other similar one, filed by Adeleke against the Court of Appeal’s decision in relation to the appeals filed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC, marked: SC/554/2019 and SC/555/2019.
The court also took arguments from Ikpeazu (for the appellant), Yusuf Ali (SAN) for INEC; Bode Olanipekun (SAN) for Oyetola and Olumide Olujinmi, for APC in relation to the fourth appeal, marked: SC/556/2019.
In their arguments, counsel to the respondents – INEC, Oyetola and the APC faulted Adeleke’s appeals and prayed the court to dismiss them for lacking in merit and uphold the judgments as given on May 9, 2019 by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which affirmed Oyetola of the APC as the winner of the governorship election held in September 2018.
In relation to the first set of appeals – SC/553/2019; SC554/2019 and SC/555/2019, Ikpeazu urged the court to set aside the judgments of the Court of Appeal and restore the majority judgment given in his client’s favour by the election tribunal.
In a counter-argument, Wole Olanipekun, Ali and Olunijmi faulted the competence of the appeals and urged the court to dismiss them for lacking in merit and to uphold the May 9 judgments given in favour of the respondents by the Court of Appeal.
In arguing the fourth appeal: SC/556/2019, Ikpeazu urged the court to set aside the two concurrent judgments of the election tribunal and the Court of Appeal, in which both courts rejected Adeleke’s request to void the supplementary election held after INEC declared the Osun governorship election inconclusive.
Ikpeazu said his client’s contention was that INEC lacked the powers to have canceled elections in some pooling units and order a rerun, arguing that the supplementary election was unnecessary because Adeleke had won the election and met the constitutional requirement to be declared a winner.
Ikpeazu prayed the court to set aside the Paragraph 44 of the INEC’s Guideline, on which basis the supplementary election was held, on the grounds that it conflicted with the constitution.
Olanipekun’s son, Bode Olanipekun (SAN) argued the fourth appeal for Oyetola and urged the court to disregard Ikpeazu’s contention that the supplementary election was unnecessary and said that Paragraph 44 of INEC Guidelines was not in conflict with the constitution.
Olanipekun, who noted that Section 178(4) of the Constitution provides that the entire state is the constituency for a governorship election and added that “where elections have not held in the entire state, the appellant cannot contend that he won the election, as against the 2nd respondent (Oyetola), who won the election as conducted across the whole of the state.”
Counsels to INEC and the APC argued in a similar vein, with Ali (for INEC) arguing that Ikpeazu’s submission on reliefs 8and 9 of his client (Adeleke’s) petition, overlooked the fact that election tribunal is special tribunal with limited jurisdiction to determine whether somebody was properly returned in an election.
“The quarrel of the appellant is against a concurrent finding of two lowers courts. There are no compelling reasons to make this court interfere with the concurrent findings of the two lower courts,” Ali said.
Olujinmi urged the court to be guided by its earlier decision in the case of Faleke v. INEC 2016 8 NWLR, part 1543 pg 61, in which this court affirmed the limited scope of the jurisdiction of the election tribunal.
He noted that even though Adeleke and his party, the PDP are aware of this court’s decision in that case (Faleke case), but have failed to approach the court for departure on its position on that issue.