The Osun State governorship election tribunal sitting in Abuja yesterday by a split decision of two to one nullified the election of Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo in his dissenting judgment disagreed with two of his brother Justices who ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to without delay, withdraw the certificate of return earlier issued to Oyetola as winner of the September 22, 2018 governorship election.
Justice Peter Obiora who delivered the majority judgment of the tribunal ordered INEC to immediately issue a fresh certificate of return to Senator Ademola Adeleke as the lawful and validly elected governor of Osun State, after declaring the September 27,2018 re-run election as illegal.
The tribunal held that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Adeleke scored the lawful majority votes at the election contrary to the declaration by INEC.
The three man panel led by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, held that the returning officer, ought not to have cancelled the election in the first place as he lacks the constitutional powers to do so. The tribunal held that the supplementary election was a product of an illegal cancellation of the results in the seven polling units during the September 22, 2018 main election. The panel agreed that PDP and Adeleke established beyond reasonable doubt that INEC did not comply substantially with the Electoral Act in 17 polling units.
Consequently, over 2,000 votes credited to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Governor Oyetola were deducted from the total votes credited to them by INEC, while over 1,000 votes said to have been scored by the PDP and its candidate were also removed from their total votes.
The majority judgment held that the returning officer who cancelled the result in the affected units after the announcement had no power to have done so.
The minority judgment, delivered by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, Chairman of the tribunal, however held that the petitioners, PDP and Adeleke failed to prove how the non-compliance of non-recording in the columns of accredited votes and account of ballots in the result sheets substantially affected the final results.
Justice Sirajo further stated that even when non-substantial compliance affects the outcome of the election, the tribunal, by virtue of section 140(2) of the Electoral Act, does not have the power to subtract the votes affected by the non-compliance from the scores of the candidates and announce a winner.
According to him, the tribunal only has the power to nullify the results of the polling units affected by the non-compliance and order a supplementary poll. He concluded that even if the non-compliance was substantial, it was not proved by the petitioners.
The tribunal had earlier dismissed the objections of the APC and Oyetola. It said Adeleke’s petition has merit. The tribunal also declared the rerun election as illegal. The PDP and Adeleke, had filed a petition asking the tribunal to declare that he polled the highest lawful votes and should be declared the winner. But Oyetola, APC and INEC had filed their notices of preliminary objection contending among others that the petition was incompetent and that the court lacked jurisdiction. A three -member panel of the tribunal , dismissed the objections filed by Gov. Oyetola, APC and INEC. Both Adeleke and the PDP in their different petitions had urged the tribunal to declare that he scored the highest lawful votes in the election and should be declared as winner. However, Oyetola, APC and INEC filed their notices of preliminary objection against the petition on the grounds that the petition is incompetent adding that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition.
Adeleke and his political platform, the PDP had through their team of lawyers led by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, urged the tribunal to declare that Governor Oyetola was not the valid winner of either the substantive election that was conducted on September 22, 2018, or the re-run election that took place on September 27, 2018.
The petitioners had alleged that the re-run poll was marred by manifest irregularities, even as they urged the court to nullify Oyetola’s election and declare Adeleke as the rightful winner of the governorship election.
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