Counsels to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and that for the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Adegboyega Oyetola as well as that for candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ademola Adeleke, made their final submissions today, Wednesday, before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The court of appeal, which is looking into who won the governorship election of Osun State, is a five-man panel of justices, led by Justice Hannatu Sankey, with Justices Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju and Bitrus Sanga as members.
In his address to the court, Counsel to INEC, Yusuf Ali, SAN, said that the decision of the lower tribunal declaring Adeleke on March 22, as the duly-elected governor of the state was made in error, adding that the respondents’ argument that the commission failed to conduct proper accreditation and deliberately voided votes to favour Oyetola was a figment of imagination.
He said that Adeleke and the PDP failed to prove over voting in the election, adding that the results from both the Sept.22 and Sept. 27, 2018 were true reflection of the exercise.
He said that the anomalies in the recording of votes in columns of form EC8A were not substantial enough to sway the election in Adeleke’s favour.
Yusuf Ali submitted that the commission fully complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended in the conduct of the election.
On his part, Counsel to Oyetola, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, averred that Adeleke’s return by the majority decision of the tribunal was done in error, saying that Justice Peter Obiora, who delivered the lead judgment was not diligent in his attendance of the proceedings.
Olanipekun submitted that the judge was particularly absented himself on April 6 proceeding but went ahead to make references to the proceedings of that day.
He said the validity of the decision was called to question as the Justice Obiora failed to sign it.
“My Lord, we were in court on April 6 and we can testify that Justice Peter Obiora was not part of the panel that day, but we were surprised that he made allusion to the proceedings he never experienced in the judgment.
“We can also see from the judgment heading that his name was listed as part of the panel but he clearly did not sign his portion on the document.
“My Lords, we implore you to discountenance the decision and set it aside.
“We also pray the court to return Oyetalo as the duly elected governor of Osun’’, he said.
On whether the respondents proved over voting, Olanipekun submitted that they only dumped the Voter Register on the tribunal without linking all the variables that could prove over voting.
Also, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN) Counsel to the APC aligned himself with the arguments canvassed by both Olanipekun and Ali.
Olujimi argued further that the respondents had merely drew inferences and not evidential matters that could sustain the tribunal’s decision, adding that the appeal should be upheld.
However, Counsel to both Adeleke and PDP, Dr Oyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the submission advanced by the counsel to the appellants, adding that the cancellation of the Sept.22, 2018 governorship was unconstitutional.
Ikpeazu submitted that the Electoral Act did not empower INEC to willingly cancel election when a winner had clearly emerged.
He explained that the cancellation which was done by the collation officer rather than the presiding officer was indicative of how deep the electoral body went to thwart the process in favour of the APC candidate.
He also said that the respondents were able to prove over voting at the lower tribunal, adding that the supplementary election conducted in 70 polling units on Sept.27 was marred by violence and malpractices.
“Our contention has always been the non-declaration of Adeleke after he was clearly in the lead and it was resounding that the tribunal eventually right the wrong’’, he said.
He said that INEC was unable to defend the entire process that it handled, adding that vital sensitive forms that should guarantee transparency of the process were not entered by the electoral body.
A total of three appeals and one cross-appeal were treated by the court.
Electoral tribunal had, on March 22, held that the re-run election conducted by INEC was unconstitutional and therefore directed INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return earlier issued to Oyetola and issue same to Adeleke.
Meanwhile, Justice Sankey has reserved judgment on the appeals after counsel to parties adopted all their addresses.