The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the appeal of Senator Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the declaration of Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the Osun State governorship election.
In the lead judgement by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, the apex court declared that the absence of the judge who read the majority decision of the election tribunal made the judgement a nullity.
The judge upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that the proper thing to have done in the absence of Justice Peter Obiorah was to start the entire trial afresh.
Four of the seven Justices of the apex court, sat to deliver the judgement, with Justice Rhodes Vivour presiding.
There was majority judgment of 5 and dissenting judgment of 2, ruling in Oyetola’s favour.
N.O.O Oke and Dr Paul Ananaba both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) led the legal representation for Adeleke and PDP, while Abiodun Olaide announced appearance for Oyetola.
Adesina Agbede announced appearance for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Appeal Court in Abuja had similarly declared Governor Oyetola as winner of the gubernatorial election.
A five-member panel of the court led by Justice Jummai Sankey delivered the lead judgement which favoured Oyetola on the grounds that the tribunal’s ruling read by Justice Peter Obiora amounted to judicial hearsay because he did not participate fully in the proceedings of the Tribunal.
The Appeal Court also said that the entire proceeding leading to the tribunal’s judgement could not stand because of its “faulty composition.”
Justice Sankey noted that the matter ought not to be returned to the tribunal for the fact that it was a post-election case where time for its adjudication could not be expanded or elongated. Therefore, she ruled that the appellate court could not order a fresh trial by the lower tribunal.
The lead judgement read by Justice Sankey was, however, dissented by a member of the five-man panel, Justice George Mbamba, who said the allegation that Justice Obiora did not attend all the sessions of the Tribunal was speculative.
She maintained that the records of the Tribunal’s proceedings indicated that the judge did participate in all the hearings because he signed at the beginning of the day’s proceedings.
On that basis, the dissenting judge not only dismissed Governor Oyetola’s appeal but slammed him with a cost of N200,000.
Despite Justice Mbamba’s dissenting judgement, Justice Sankey went further to resolve 11 other issues contained in the appeal in favour of Governor Oyetola, the appellant.
She declared that Senator Adeleke did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a substantial non-compliance to the Electoral Act by the absence of the ballot paper records.
Earlier, the Osun State Election Tribunal declared Adeleke winner, saying that the September 27 rerun election in the state was illegal.
The tribunal also ruled that PDP and Adeleke proved that it was the State Returning Officer who cancelled the results in 7 Polling Units, adding that the petitioners proved that the Returning Officer had no power to cancel election results of a polling unit.