The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday set aside the March 22, 2019 majority judgment given by the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal, sacking Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State.
The appellate court held, in three judgements delivered on three appeals filed by Oyetola, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that the trial tribunal erred in its majority judgment.
Although one member of the court’s five-man panel dissented on the judgments in the three appeals by Oyetola, APC and INEC, the panel was, however, unanimous in dismissing the cross-appeal by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election held on September 22 and 27, 2018, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
The panel led by Justice Jummai Sankey decided the three appeals (which were substantially similar) mainly on issues raised and argued by lawyer to Oyetola, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) in the appeal he filed for the Governor.
As it was the case at the Court of Appeal on Thursday, the three-man panel of trial tribunal was also divided in two-to-one in its judgment of March 22, 2019, with the majority judgment upholding the petition by the PDP and Adeleke.
It was a harvest of losses for the PDP and Adeleke at the conclusion of proceedings as they lost in the four judgments delivered on Thursday.
Justice Sankey read the lead judgments in the appeals by Oyetola and INEC, with which Justices Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju and Bitrus Sanga agreed, while Justice Ita Mbaba dissented.
Justice Yahaya read the lead judgment in the appeal by the APC, with which other members of the panel agreed, except Justice Mbaba, who also dissented.
The last judgment was on the cross-appeal by the PDP and Adeleke, which was read by Justice Akeju, with other members agreeing that the cross-appeal was unmeritorious and deserved to be dismissed.
In upholding the appeal by Oyetola, Justice Sankey, in the lead judgment, resolved 10 of the 12 issues raised for determination, in favour of the Governor.
Justice Sankey, in resolving the first issue, upheld Olanipekun’s argument that the absence of Justice Peter Obiorah (who authored and read the lead majority judgment at the trial tribunal) at the tribunal’s sitting on February 6, 2019, rendered the proceedings of the tribunal and its majority decision a nullity.
She held that Obiorah’s absence on that day implied that the tribunal was not properly constituted to conduct proceedings, which, the judge analysed and relied on in the majority judgment he authored and read.
“I find and resolve the first issue in favour of the appellant and against the 1st and 2nd respondents (PDP and Adeleke)
“I declare the entire proceedings and the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal a nullity. I hereby set aside the entire proceedings including the judgment,” Justice Sankey said.
She noted that having nullified that proceedings of the tribunal and set its judgment aside, the court would have ordered that the petition be re-heard, but for the fact that the 180 days provided in the Constitution, for the hearing of election petition, has lapsed.
Justice Saankey said a re-hearing could not be ordered, because Section 285(c) of the Constitution which provides that an election petition must be heard and determined within 180days from the day of its filing.
She noted that the petition, having been filed before the tribunal on October 16, 2018, the 180 days had lapsed on April 15, 2019.