By Ismail Azeez, Osogbo
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has appealed against the Election Petition Tribunal in Osun State led by judgement of Justice T. A. Kume on 44 grounds.
INEC filed the the petition at the Court of Appeal in Akure, through its lawyer, Paul Ananaba (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) on Wednesday.
The electoral body according to a “Notice of Appeal” made available to journalists in Osogbo, on Wednesday, sought an order of the Appeal Court to set aside the whole decision of the trial Tribunal and dismiss and/or striking out the Petition for want of competence and jurisdiction.
INEC said the election petition tribunal erred in law by failing to consider and rule on the various preliminary objections filed by the 1st respondent challenging the competency of the petition and jurisdiction of the Election Petition Tribunal to hear the Petition but proceeded to determine the merit of the Petition.
Recall that the petitioners, former Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, and his party, and the All Progressive Congress faulted the declaration of candidate of People Democratic Party, Ademola Adeleke on 17th of July, 2022, by the electoral body as the winner of the July 16th governorship election in the state.
Oyetola said APC premised their petition with reference no: EPT/OS/GOV/01/2022, on Adeleke’s eligibility to contest and over-voting and the Tribunal on 27th January, 2023 declared Oyetola as the validly elected Governor of the State.
The appellant said the Tribunal totally misconstrued Section 47(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, which must be read purposefully, communally and holistically to arrive at the true intention of the legislature and justice.
“The lower Tribunal erred in law when they failed to consider and rule on the various preliminary objections filed by the 1 Respondent/Appellant challenging the competency of the petition and jurisdiction of the Election Petition Tribunal to hear the Petition but proceeded to determine the merit of the Petition.
“On the particulars of error, INEC stated that ‘It is trite law that preliminary objections that touch on the competency of the petition and the jurisdiction of the Tribunal is a threshold issue which must be determined before the Tribunal can assume jurisdiction to determine the merit of the Petition.’
“The preliminary objections filed by the 1 Respondent Appellant were adjourned to be delivered alongside the judgment on the Petition. iii. The Honourable Tribunal ought to determine the preliminary objections of the 1st Respondent before going into the merit of the Petition. iv. Failure of the Tribunal to consider and deciding the preliminary objections of the 1st Respondent/Appellant amounts to a denial of fair hearing and occasioned a miscarriage of justice as the objections would have terminated the life of the Petition in limine.
“The judgment delivered by the lower Tribunal for the conduct of the Osun state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting at Osogbo on Friday the 27th day of January, 2023 is a nullity.
“The judgment is not a complete judgment of the said Election Petition.
“Tribunal Member 2 was one of the members of the said Tribunal who heard the Petition but did not reduce her judgment or opinion in writing capable of being delivered on the day fixed for the delivery of the judgment.
“Each of the members of the Tribunal must express his/her opinion in writing. The judgment is a breach of Section 294 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The Judgment delivered by HON. TERTSEA AORGA KUME J., was jointly signed on the last page of the judgment by the Tribunal Member 2 RABI BASHIR (Chief Magistrate).
“Section 294 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not admit of joint judgments. The judgment of the Tribunal herein is incurably a nullity for being in breach of the said Section 294 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) Osun State chapter, has commended INEC for initiating processes to appeal the judgement of the Osun Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
The PDP in a statement by its Caretaker Chairman, Dr Adekunle Akindele on Wednesday, said the electoral umpire has lived up to the expectations of Nigerians in standing up to the defence of the country’s electoral system.
The party expressed faith in higher courts to establish the supremacy of BVAS machines above any other source on accreditation of voters.
Akindele noted that the decision of INEC has put paid to the lies being sponsored by the APC in the last few days, saying mandate usurper can only try but will not succeed.
“We really do not want to respond to the cheap lies of the APC, as it is now obvious to the good people of Osun State, especially the voting public, that the mandate thieves are afraid of their shadows,” the statement noted.
“It is so bad that the lies that INEC will not appeal the scandalous judgement that tried to discredit BVAS machines in our elections emanated from APC lawyers, making it clear that they know the evil they perpetrated at the Tribunal can not stand.
“While the falsehood lasted, we chose not to respond because we are convinced that INEC knows better and being aware of the implication of ignoring the attack on the BVAS machines as the decision of Justice Kume did at the Tribunal, INEC has towed the right path by appealing the ‘Buga judgment’ because if such is sustained, what will happen will be candidates who lost elections manipulating server reports and presenting same to a judge to steal election from the actual winner.
“Maintaining that the BVAS machine itself is the best evidence to prove accreditation figure in an electoral dispute, as clearly provided for in the extant Electoral Law, as against a controversial server which is only a storage unit requiring synchronisation and time to time updating, the PDP said the judgment delivered by Justice T. A. Kume was an assault on the right of the people to choose their own leaders through a free and fair electoral process.
“To understand the extent of the injustice to Osun people, the table of scores prepared by the petitioners’ counsel was what the Tribunal Chairman lifted into the co-authored judgment even when its content was not the same with the pleading and evidence of the petitioners.
“In essence, apart from the Tribunal Chairman descending into the arena by manifesting bias and personal animosity against the person of Governor Adeleke by his Buga declaration, Justice Kume turned a Father Christmas by going outside the pleading of the petitioners to reach its decision, which is outside known laws and logic. It beats our imagination that Justice Kume would prefer a controversial and an extraneous server report over and above the real evidence presented before the Tribunal which in no way established any over-voting. This is nothing but a coup not only against Osun people but the Nigerian electorates, and we are hopeful that this injustice will not be allowed to stand by higher courts,” the Party said.
Reacting, the APC carpeted the PDP over its commendation of the (INEC) for initiating processes to appeal the tribunal judgement which sacked Governor, Ademola Adeleke, from the office on January 27, 2023.
According to the Osun APC Acting Chairman, Sooko Tajudeen Lawal, in a statement issued by the party’s Director of Media and Information, Chief Kola Olabisi, in Osogbo today, there is no point for the state PDP to cast aspersion on the institution of the judiciary as handlers of the PDP at all levels have struggled to do since the tribunal affirmed that their party rigged the July 16 election.
Lawal stated that it defied rational thinking that the judiciary which the rudderless PDP devote their time to lampoon each moment, over the tribunal judgement, is the same temple to which they are running helter skelter to for appelate reliefs.
The state APC chairman remarked that the unjustifiable attack of the PDP on the Chairman of the Osun governorship election petition tribunal only succeeded in portraying the party and Adeleke as bad losers, lacking genuine democratic quality.
He said, “the sit-tight Osun PDP caretaker committee chairman’s resorting to branding Justice Kume as ‘a coupist’ who delivered ‘a Buga judgement’ and whose conduct manifested ‘bias and personal animosity against the person of Governor Adeleke’ is a testament of lack of decorum, exposure, civility and respect for rules of law of the frustrated savage from Ondo State.”
On the alleged move of the electoral umpire to appeal the tribunal judgement, Lawal said: “There’s nothing spectacular in the INEC engaging in the process of appealing any judgement as it’s still within its fundamental right of seeking justice.
“Rolling out of the drums over the national umpire’s willingness to appeal any case against it is an overkill and a superfluity which does not, in any way, confer remediation on Adeleke’s status and his governorship hopelessness,” Lawal explained.