Supreme Court affirms election of Oyetola as Osun state governor

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Governor Gboyega Oyetola

The Supreme Court on Friday validated the election of Adegboyega Oyetola as the governor of Osun state.

In a judgment delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, the Apex Court declared the proceedings and judgment of trial tribunal a nullity on the grounds that Justice Peter Obiora, the judge who had read the majority judgement at the tribunal, was evidently absent on Feb. 6, following the documents before the court.

Five out of the Seven-man panel of Justices including the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad declared Oyetola as winner of the September 2018 election while two had a dissenting opinion.

Rhodes-Vivour held that the failure of  Justice Obiora to be present on that day meant that the tribunal lacked the authority to have given any judgment on the matter.

He held that when the rightly constituted panel of a court does not seat, the activities carried out by that panel is a nullity.

Meanwhile, Justices Kumai Akaah and Paul Galinje with dissenting voices declared the PDP as the winner of the election.

They held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be an unbiased umpire in an election.

They said INEC erred in law by relying on it’s manual to cancel some aspects of the election and declare it inconclusive.

They also held that the appellant still met the constitutional requirements of having the highest votes cast and the spread: but the election umpire went ahead to cancel the election and carried out a rerun showing that INEC had a plan up its sleeves.

The People’s Democratic Party and its candidate, Sen. Ademola Adeleke, had challenged the victory of the All Progressives Congress and its candidate, Governor Gboyega Oyetola at the 2018 Osun Governorship Election Tribunal.

In a dissenting judgment of four-to-one, the five-man panel led by Justice Jummai Sankey, the Court of Appeal upheld the appeal filed by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State challenging the verdict of the tribunal and affirmed him as duly elected

Delivering the lead majority judgment of the four members of the panel, the court resolved 10 out of the 12 issues raised in favour of Oyetola and the two others in favour of Ademola and his PDP.

The Court of Appeal’s majority judgment was primarily anchored on the alleged absence of a member of the tribunal, Justice  Obiora, who read the lead majority verdict of the tribunal, during the February 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal.

Justice Sankey held that absence of Justice Obiorah on that date nullified the entire proceedings and the verdict of the tribunal.

Three other members of the panel, Justices Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju, and Bitrus Sanga, agreed with Justice Sankey.

But a member of the panel, Justice George Mbaba, dissented from the majority judgment, holding that the alleged absence of Justice Obiorah from the Feb. 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal was mere speculation.

INEC had declared Oyetola and the APC the winner of the Osun State governorship election on the basis of the cumulative results of the September 22, 2018, main election and the Sept. 27, 2018, supplementary poll.

Dissatisfied with the result declared by INEC, the PDP and Adeleke had filed their petition before the three-man Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, contending that they were the true winner of the election as they had already won after the Sept. 22, 2018 poll and that there was no need for the supplementary election held on September 27, 2018.

The tribunal, in its March 22, split judgment of two-to-one, nullified Oyetola’s victory and declared Adeleke and the PDP the winner of the election.

The tribunal’s chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, in his minority judgment, dissented from the majority judgment credited to Justices Obiora and Adegboye Gbolagunte.