Mr Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Monday, asked the Court of Appeal, Abuja to declared Gov. Ademola Adeleke of Osun unqualified to have contested the July 16, 2022 poll in which he emerged as winner over alleged certificate forgery. Oyetola, whose candidacy in the poll was affirmed by a tribunal, made the prayer in a cross appeal marked: CA/AK/EPT/GOV/03/2023 filed before the three-member panel headed by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 1st and 2nd cross appellants in the case are Oyetola and the APC respectively. In the matter, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Adeleke and the PDP are the 1st to 3rd cross respondents respectively. NAN also reports that Adeleke had, in an appeal marked: CA/AK/EPT/GOV/01/2023, prayed the court to set aside the judgment of the Osun tribunal delivered on Jan. 27 which upturned his victory at the poll. Adeleke, who dragged Oyetola, APC and INEC before the appellate court as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively, urged the panel to dismiss the tribunal’s judgment. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, who was counsel to Adeleke, challenged the decision of the tribunal which nullified the victory of his client in the governorship election. Ikpeazu, argued that a member of the tribunal, who was also a chief magistrate, did not air her opinion during the judgement delivery. Rather, he said she only appended her signature and the constitution mandated her to have aired her views about the suit. But Oyetola’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, disagreed with Ikpeazu. The senior lawyer submitted that mere signing of the judgment, and not making any comment could not have rendered the judgment invalid. He further argued that Justice Terste Kume, who headed the tribunal, in the open court, made a pronouncement while delivering the judgment using the expression, ‘We, members of the tribunal…,’ to imply that the decision was unanimous. He also argued that there was over-voting in 744 polling units across the state. Fagbemi urged the court to dismiss Adeleke’s appeal. Arguing the cross appeal, Akin Olujimi, SAN, who appeared for Oyetola, prayed the court to declare Adeleke unqualified to have contested the election, in the first instance, over allegations bordering on certificate forgery. NAN reports that INEC had, on July 17, 2022, declared Adeleke the winner of the governorship election conducted on July 16, 2022 after polling a total of 403,371 votes. He was said to have won in 17 of the 30 local government areas in the state. But Oyetola and his party, the APC, approached the court to challenge the victory on the grounds that there was over-voting and that Adeleke was not eligible to run at the time. The Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had, on Jan. 27, voided the July 16, 2022 election that produced Adeleke of PDP as the elected governor. The panel led by Justice Kume, in its judgment, invalidated the election and declared Mr Gboyega Oyetola of APC as the valid winner of the poll. The tribunal directed INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Adeleke and his deputy, Kola Adewusi, both of whom had been sworn in. It, however, directed that the certificate of return should instead be issued to Oyetola. Justice Kume held that the governorship election was not held in compliance with Nigeria’s Electoral Act. The tribunal also held that the governorship election was characterised by over-voting. The tribunal, thus, ordered that Oyetola should be returned as governor of Osun State. Olujimi, in his argument on Monday, said that that they were able to prove a case of forgery against Adeleke but the tribunal failed to make a consequential order in that regard. He said the development led to the filing of the cross appeal. He said Adeleke, who vied for the governorship position, submitted a forged certificate to INEC. He stated that besides the issue of over-voting established by the tribunal, the cross respondents erroneously thought Adeleke was eligible to contest in the poll even with the controversy surrounding the certificate forgery. Olujimi argued that having found that the case of forgery was proved by the petitioners (Oyetola and APC) against the 2nd cross respondent (Adeleke) in regard to his Exhibit EC9 and FILE D, the tribunal ought to have held pursuant to Section 182(1)(j) that Adeleke was not qualified to have vied for the July 16, 2022 Osun governorship election. He also submitted that Adeleke failed to call evidence to disprove a case of forgery against him, saying that ‘an evidence tendered in one case cannot be relied on in another case.’ He urged the court to uphold the cross appeal. Counsel to INEC, Paul Ananaba, SAN, said the cross appeal was hollow, praying the court to dismiss it Also, Adeleke’s lawyer, Ikpeazu, urged the court to dismiss the cross appeal. He argued that since Oyetola and APC were the petitioners before the tribunal, they ought to have called evidence to prove their case, and not the respondents. Alex Iziyon, SAN, lawyer to the PDP, also aligned with Ikpeazu’s submission. After taking arguments from counsel to the parties, Justice Shuaibu reserved judgment in the case. ,(NAN)(www.nanmews.ng)

Source: News Agency of Nigeria