There was a thick judicial confusion yesterday in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, as the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division allowed the appeal filed by Adebayo Adelabu, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the March 9, 2019 election against the sitting governor, Seyi Makinde, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The court, however, ordered status quo in the lower tribunal’s judgement, meaning that the return and declaration of Makinde as winner of the March 9 governorship poll in Oyo State remained.
The two parties in the electoral dispute laid claim to the victory at the appellate court.
The four-man panel of the Appeal Court, led by Justice Abubakar Yahaya, ruled that there was miscarriage of justice in the decision of the Oyo State Election Petitions Tribunal which upheld the victory of Makinde, against the petition by Adelabu. But the appellate court could not order a retrial or give any consequential order to the effect. It also refused to make any order for re-hearing of the election petition.
It held that the tribunal erred by not considering every document submitted by Adelabu to prove his case and lumping them together as one.
In its ruling, the Appeal Court resolved all the four issues raised by Adelabu in favour of Makinde, noting that it allowed the appeal because there were issues of miscarriage of justice at the lower court, but added that a judgement must be given after considering the situation in its entirety.
But there was a dissenting judgement from a judge with a proviso that the panel could not nullify Makinde’s election, as, according to him, the 180 days mandated for the tribunal to deliver its judgement in election petition had lapsed and there was consequently no reason to touch the ruling of the lower court.
Adelabu had filed an appeal through his counsel, Yusuf Alli (SAN), against the judgement of the tribunal upholding the victory of the PDP and its candidate, Makinde.
He had prayed the court to dismiss the judgement of the lower court and order a fresh election while counsel to Makinde urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the judgement of the tribunal.
While speaking with journalists after the judgement, the lead counsel to Makinde, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), said 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.
“We have not seen the details of the judgement. 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,” he said.
Speaking on the implications of the judgement on Governor Makinde, Jegede said: “There is no implication on the return and declaration of Seyi Makinde as the governor of Oyo State.”
The counsel to Adelabu and APC, Adeboye Shobanjo, however, told journalists that: “You listened to what My Lord said about the evaluation of judgement of evidence that when there are evidence before the court, the evidence of all parties before the court should be evaluated. Judgement should not be based only on the evidence of a party in a case, and if that was done during the trial, or during the judgement, that is contrary to the provision of the constitution on fair hearing.
“Second, this court settled the issue of dumping of documents on election cases. And contrary to the decision of the tribunal that all the documents tendered by the appellants were dumped on the tribunal, the judgement made it known that the documents were not dumped on the tribunal.
“In totality, the appeal was allowed. But My Lord said that because of effusion of time, that since the time for trial has lapsed at the tribunal, they cannot order for retrial of the case.
“But generally or totally, the appeal was allowed. It showed that the judgement of the tribunal occasioned miscarriage of justice against the appellants.”
When asked to comment on if Adelabu and the APC would proceed to the Supreme Court, Shobanjo simply said: “The next step depends on my clients. They will brief us accordingly and it depends on instructions.”
Meanwhile, the APC in Oyo State has reaffirmed its strong belief in the judiciary as the pillar of hope for the sustenance of democracy, saying Adelabu and the party would approach the Supreme Court for final settlement of the litigation.
The APC “regretted that the good people of the state would still have to wait for the final adjudication on the case before our candidate could reclaim his mandate.”
According to a statement issued by its Assistant Publicity Secretary, Prince Ayobami Adejumo, Oyo APC lauded the appellate court’s judges for their pronouncement which validated the claims of the plaintiffs in the matter, saying, “The verdict given on Monday was unambiguous, apt and sound enough to convince any informed mind about the genuineness of our claim that Makinde’s declaration as the winner of the March 9 poll was done by INEC in error. The results announced were ridiculously inflated and there is no way such conspiracy could stand the test of proper scrutiny as this was just confirmed by the appellate court.
“Obviously, the next line of action is for us as a party and our gubernatorial hopeful to approach the Supreme Court for perfection of the landmark verdict delivered by the Court of Appeal today and, by the special Grace of God, we shall obtain favourable judgement from the apex court as only this would lend credence to the fact that Nigeria’s democratic practice is premised on free and fair elections as well as the rule of law.”
Meanwhile, Governor Makinde has declared that his mandate remains intact and cannot be stolen through the back door.
Makinde, in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa said, “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 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the election.
“The victory was reaffirmed by a ruling of the Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Ibadan, the state capital.
“On Monday, the Court of Appeal, also sitting in Ibadan, delivered its judgement on the appeal by the candidate of the APC, Adebayo Adelabu.
“In its ruling, the Appeal Court refused to grant any of the three key reliefs sought by the APC candidate.
“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.
“With the above being the reality of the outcome of the Appeal Court ruling, the election of Engr. Seyi Makinde as the Governor of Oyo State has just been reaffirmed.
“There is 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 Engr. Seyi Makinde by the people of Oyo State.
“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.”