*To notify parties 48 hours before delivery
The Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday in Abuja adjourned for judgment.
The tribunal, led by Justice Suleiman Belgore, adjourned indefinitely, but told parties they would be informed 48 hours before the day to be set for the delivery of the judgment.
Justice Belgore announced the adjournment on Wednesday after parties adopted their final written addresses and prayed the tribunal to grant their prayers.
The tribunal Chairman praised the conduct of lawyers and parties in the case. He particularly noted that the senior lawyers were professional and mature in their conduct.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last governorship election in Ekiti State, Professor Kolapo Olusola are challenging the outcome of the election won by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Listed as petitioners in the petition marked: EPT/EKS/GOV/01/18 are PDP and Olusola, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC and Fayemi are listed as respondents Charles Edosomwan (SAN), Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) adopted the final addresses by INEC, APC and Fayemi.
Edosomwan, Olujinmi and Fagbemi urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition by the PDP and Olusola on the ground that they failed to prove their allegations that the election was flawed and was not held in substantial compliance with Electoral Act.
They also faulted the petitioners’ argument that Fayemi was not qualified to have contested the election because he was allegedly indicted in a report by a commission of inquiry constituted by the Ekiti State Government to probe Fayemi’s first term in office as the state governor.
Edosomwan, Olujinmi and Fagbemi, in separate arguments, contended that, although the petitioners raised criminal allegations of votes’ manipulation, they failed to meet the standard of proof required to sustain such allegations.
They also adopted their separate notices of objection, in which the respondents prayed the tribunal to strike out some paragraphs in the petition on the grounds that they are vague.
Edosonman, who identified six issues for the tribunal’s determination, argued that the first issue, relating to Fayemi’s qualification, was beyond questioning.
He contended that the document the petitioners had relied, which is the report of a commission of enquiry and the white paper issued thereto, have been quashed by a competent court.
Edosomwan also argued that the petitioners also failed to sustain issues two, three and four, which relate to whether or not the Fayemi and his party won the election and whether the election was held in compliance with the Electoral Act.
He said: “all efforts by the petitioners to disqualify the fact that the 3rd and 2nd respondents (Fayemi and APC) won the election turned out in vain.
“Evidence showed that they (the petitioners) have not even scratched the surface, in terms of evidence to prove, their claim that the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
On the fifth issue which relates to the question about the legitimacy of the election, Edosomwan argued that
“there is nothing put forward by the petitioners to show that there was massive fraud to warrant the cancellation of the election.”
He urged the tribunal to resolve the sixth issue in favour of the respondents. He argued that since the petitioners, by the evidence led, failed to shake the election, there is no need for the tribunal to order a fresh election, as prayed by the petitioners.
Edosomwan, who urged the court to dismiss the petition, noted that the petitioners failed to carry out the burden placed on them by the law, to prove all the relevant elements of their claim.
He added: “The criminal allegation were not proved, not even on the preponderance of evidence, much less beyond reasonable doubt, as required in such instance.”
Olujinmi noted that the issue of non-qualification based on alleged indictment by a commission of inquiry on allegation of embezzlement of funds, provided in Section 182 of the Constitution, has now been deleted by the First Alteration of the Constitution (2010).
He added: “We argued further that, even if it was not deleted, what the petitioners were required to prove to sustain this ground, based on several decided cases, is that a court of law has found him guilty of embezzlement of funds. That did not happen in this case.”
Olujinmi also referred Edosomwan’s observation that the report had been nullified by a competent court of law.
He added: “We also argued that, even if Section 182 (1) of the Constitution was not deleted, the report did not make any finding of embezzlement against the 3rd respondent, the report only said he failed to honour the commission’s invitation, and then recommended that he should be banned from politics.
“So, the first ground is not available to the petitioner,” Olujinmi said.
He noted that a number of witnesses’ statements were the same in sequence and presentation.
Olujinmi argued that: “Where the statements of several witnesses are all the same in sequence and presentation, the Supreme Court said such witness statements should be disregarded. We identified 32 of such witnesses.”
Arguing the petitioners’ case, their lawyer, Yusuf Alli (SAN) urged the tribunal to discountenance the respondents’ arguments and grant the petitioners’ prayers.
Alli also urged the court to reject the respondents’ preliminary objection and held that the petition and all its paragraphs were filed in accordance with the relevant laws.
The petitioners’ lawyer added: “We succeeded in establishing our case through the witnesses the respondents called.
“We urge the court to take judicial notice of the white paper issued on the finding of the commission of inquiry and the touted judgment.
“There is nothing in the respondents’ arguments that has taken away the sting of the white paper. There was no answer of substance by the respondents in respect of the petitioners’ points on the voiding of votes.”
Alli urged the tribunal to grant the reliefs sought in the petition, dismiss the objection and help in upholding the sanctity of the country’s electoral process.