2019 Guber Petitions: MAKINDE, AYADE, SANWOOLU TRIUMPH, AS APPEAL COURT RESERVES JUDGMENT IN OKOWA’S CASE

On Monday November 11, 2019, the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, delivered its judgement on the appeal by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adebayo Adelabu, challenging the decision of the Oyo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to sustain INEC’s decalration of Seyi Makinde as the winner of the March 9 Oyo State governordhip election.

In its ruling, the Appeal Court refused to grant any of the three key reliefs sought by the APC candidate, viz; The Court refused to nullify the election; It refused to order a fresh election and It also refused to order the retrial of the petition.

In arriving at its decision, the Appeal court Justices allowed the appeal filed by Adebayo Adelabu, against governor Seyi Makinde, of the PDP.

The court also disagreed with the Oyo State election petition tribunal judgment that dismissed Adelabu’s petition and upheld the election of Makinde as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, describing it as perverse and therefore set the judgement aside

Finally and most importantly, the court also ordered that status quo before the tribunal’s judgment should remain, which is the return and declaration of Makinde as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship poll in Oyo State, even as it held that if not for time, it would have ordered a re-trial at the tribunal, noting that unfortunately, the time limit of 180 days for tribunal had been exhausted.

The Court of Appeal did not however make any further order concerning the election of Makinde and did order a rehearing of the election petition, but stressed that the status quo as of the time of filing the petition by Adelabu be maintained.

Three of the four-member panel of Appeal Court Justices, resolved all issues infavour of the appellants, but there was a dissenting judgment from the fourth judge with a proviso that the panel could not nullify Makinde’s election.

The lead counsel to Gov. Makinde, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), told journalists after the delivery of the judgment that the declaration of Makinde as governor “has not been affected in any way.

“The Court of Appeal in their wisdom said they did not agree with the lower tribunal. They did not also say that they did not agree with INEC. So, INEC’s declaration is sacrosanct and it remains until any other pronouncement from the court,” Jegede clarified..

“We have not seen the details of the judgment. We were all in court and you (journalists) saw that the details were not read to us. As far as we are concerned, there is no cause for alarm. There is no implication on the return and declaration of Seyi Makinde as the governor of Oyo State” the Senior Advocate declared with convciction.

In his reaction, the counsel for Adelabu and the APC, Adeboye Shobanjo, said the Court of Appeal allowed all their appeals, which otherwise would have translated to a different out if not for the time bound nature of election appeal, but stopped short of confirming if his client would approach the Supreme Court to give a final interpretation to the Appellate courts judgment.

“In totality, the appeal was allowed, but my lord said that because of the effusion of time, they could not order for the retrial of the case. The next step depends on my clients. They will brief us accordingly and it depends on their instructions,” Shobanjo said.

Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, declared that the mandate given to him by the people of Oyo State through the March 9, 2019 election, remains intact following the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Ibadan and cannot be taken through the backdoor.

According to the statement: “There is no ambiguity as to the state of things in our Pacesetter State as far as the election of March 9, 2019, is concerned. Our party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won the election. The victory was reaffirmed by a ruling of the Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Ibadan, the state capital”.

The statement, while aknowledging the reality of the outcome of the Appeal Court ruling, which reaffirmed the election of Seyi Makinde as the Governor of Oyo State, declared that there was nothing in the Appeal Court’s ruling that affects the returns made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and there is nothing that tampers with the mandate freely given to Engineer Seyi Makinde by the people of Oyo State.

The statement added: “Governor Makinde hereby urges the good people of Oyo State to remain calm and refuse to be provoked by agents of disruption who are seeking to upturn the truth, which remains constant against all odds.

“We also wish to enjoin the people of Oyo State to ignore the doctored reports in some media outlets, which are merely quoting the judgement of the Court of Appeal out of context.

“With a clear margin of Makinde’s 515,621 votes to Adelabu’s 357,982 votes, the preference of the people of Oyo State is as clear as day and night.”
While reassuring the people of Oyo State that he cannot be deterred from taking the state to greater heights through the implementation of his four-point service agenda, Governor Makinde insisted that positive governance and unprecedented development will continue to be the portion of the people of Oyo State throughout his tenure,” the statement concluded.

AYADE VICTORIOUS IN CALABAR APPEAL COURT

The Court of Appeal Sitting in Calabar, has also affirmed Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State as the winner of the March 9, 2019 Governorship election in the State.

The ruling of the appellate court upholding Ayade’s victory was unanimous by the five-man panel of the Appeal Court judges, who dismissed the petition of the factional candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and former Minister for Niger Delta, Usani Usani, and upheld the judgment of the lower tribunal, which had ruled that Usani’s petition lacked merit.

The Appeal Court Justices described the petition as a gross abuse of court processes, academic, hypothetical and frivolous.

In his reaction to the judgement, Governor Ben Ayade through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Christian Ita said the victory was an affirmation of the mandate overwhelmingly given to him by the people of Cross River State.

He therefore, dedicated the victory to God and the people of the state.

Gov. Ayade in the statement, once again extended an olive branch to his opponents in other political parties to join hands with him in moving the state forward, even as he reaffirmed his commitment to developing the state and creating an economy that will ensure financial independence for the state through industrialization and provision of first class infrastructure

“The period of politics is over, it is time for governance the governor said.

SANWOOLU WINS IN LAGOS APPEAL

In a similar development, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has dismissed an appeal filed by the Labour Party (LP) challenging the judgment of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which affirmed the election of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the governor of Lagos State.

A unanimous decision by the five-man panel of justices, on Saturday, November 9, 2019, held that the appeal filed by LP and its candidate in the March 9, 2019, Lagos State governorship poll, Mr Ifagbemi Awamaridi, earlier dismissed by the Lagos State election petitions tribunal, on September 23, lacked merit and “sank never to rise again, even on appeal.”

Justice Hannatu Sankey, who read the lead judgement of the Appeal Court panel, while affirming the decisions reached by the Tribunal, ruled that the LP failed to produce any oral or documentary evidence through witnesses and other channels to establish the fact that Sanwo-Olu was not qualified to contest the election or did not win the poll.

According to the judgment, the petitioner went on a “Columbian journey of making assertions with nothing to back it up,” and thereby dismissed the appeal in its entirety and the appeal was already .”Dead On Arrival”.

The appellate court also upheld the Tribunal’s decision that no proof of allegation of collusion and assault against officers of the Nigerian Army was provided by the appellants, adding that no sufficient fact was provided to substantiate the allegation of electoral malpractices at the polling units against the respondents.

“The appeal is lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed. I hereby uphold the judgment of the Lagos State Election Petition Tribunal,” Justice Sankey held.

All the other four justices of the court affirmed and concurred with the lead judgement.

In a related development, the court also dismissed an appeal filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and its governorship candidate, Owolabi Salis, equally challenging Governor Sanwo-Olu’s victory.

In a unanimous decision, Justice Ayobode Shodipe, who read the lead judgement, held that the appeal of AD lacked merit and was “dead on arrival.”

“The appeal is seriously lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed. The seven issues of the appellant (Salis) are hereby resolved against him,” Justice Shodipe ruled.

The appellate court then ordered that a cost of N200,000 should be awarded against the appellants in favour of each six of the seven respondents.

The Commissioner of Police in both appeals was, however, exempted while the total cost awarded against the appellants was N2.4 million.

OKOWA, OGBORU AWAIT DATE FOR JUDGEMENT

A suspenseful twist however greeted the resolution of the Delta State petition, when the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Monday, November 11, reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Great Ogboru, challenging the election of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor of Delta State.

A five-man panel of the Appellate court led by Justice Uzo Ndukwe-Anyanwu, reserved judgment to a date that would be communicated to parties shortly after counsel adopted and argued their brief of argument in the appeal.

The appellants, Chief Ogboru and his party, APC, had approached the Court of Appeal submitting a 37-grounds appeal filed by their counsel, Nicholson Ichekor, which asked the Appeallate Court to set aside the entire judgment of the tribunal on the grounds that the tribunal erred in law when it dismissed their appeal for lacking in merit.

INEC had declared Okowa and PDP winner of the March 9 governorship election in Delta State, haven garnered majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.

Recall that the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, had also in August, reserved judgement in the same petition by Great Ogboru and APC, against Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and PDP, in the March 9, 2019, gubernatorial election, only to deliver the judgement in favour of Okowa in September.

The three man panel of the governorship election tribunal, led by Justice Suleiman Belgore, had in the September ruling, dismissed Ogboru and APC’s petition against the return of Governor Okowa on grounds that the petitioners failed to prove the cases of irregularities and malpractices claimed in their petition.

In approaching the Court of Appeal therefore, Ogboru and the APC in their appeal against the decision of the tribunal, argued that the lower court erred in law when it relied on the issue of over voting instead of allocation of votes as canvassed in their petition to dismiss their petition.

The appellants also urged the court to nullify okowa’s election on the claim that in some polling units, the total number of votes cast at the election exceeded the total number of voters who were accredited to vote, adding that there was substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in relation to accreditation of voters.

Responding in their own brief of argument, Mr Damian Dodo, SAN and Mr Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN for Okowa and PDP respectively, urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss Ogboru and APC’s appeal for being incompetent and unmeritorious, even as they submitted that the appellants not only failed to prove their allegations of over voting and non compliance with the Electoral Act, but also how these substantially affected the results of the election.

Faulting the claim of the appellants to base their argument on the smart card reader report, the respondents submitted that they, on the hand, have led cogent, credible and reliable evidence to show that they won the Delta governorship election held on March 9 in Delta.

“Regardless of the fact that the total number of accredited voters recorded on the smart card reader report is less than the total number of votes cast on the election day, the appellants have failed to prove their allegations of over-voting.

“The reliance of the appellants on the smart card reader report is fatal to their case and this Honourable Court is humbly urged to so hold and resolve this issue in favour of the 2nd respondent” the Respondents submitted.

Also adopting his final written address, counsel to INEC, John Bayese told the tribunal to dismiss the completed petition.