Osun State Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, has declared his intention to appeal the judgment of the Election Petitions Tribunal that nullified his victory in the July 16, 2022 governorship poll in the state.
The All Progressives Congress and its candidate, Adegboyega Oyetola, had dragged Adeleke, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission before the tribunal to challenge the PDP candidate’s eligibility to contest the election.
The petitioners also said INEC did not conduct the poll in strict compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the constitution, and asked the panel to deduct excess votes discovered in 744 polling units spread across 10 local government areas of the state.
The Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Tetsea Kume, in a majority judgment that lasted over three hours on Friday, resolved the question of over-voting against the respondents, saying the petitioners with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System report obtained from INEC’s backend server established over-voting in 744 units.
According to him, the petitioners relied on the document obtained from INEC and stated that the commission’s claim that synchronisation had not been completed when the BVAS report was issued to the petitioners was untenable as synchronisation, going by its definition, meant that it ‘must occur at the same time’.
He further held that the exhibits tendered by the respondents had not altered the position of regularity of exhibit BVR, being the BVAS report tendered by the petitioners and the other documents they laid before the panel.
Justice Kume said, “In other words, the defences of the respondents are taint with fundamental flaws; they are irreconcilable and unreliable, incapable of defeating the credible evidence tendered by the petitioners in respect of the 744 polling units where over-voting has been established.
“The inference we hereby draw from the fact established by the evidence and record is that the election conducted on the 16th day of July, 2022 was done in substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and extant regulations.
“Moreover, exhibit BVR has not been withdrawn by the first respondent, who made and issued it. The petitioners relied on exhibit BVR in maintaining this petition.
“Similarly, the exhibit tendered by the respondents after exhibit BVR submitted by learned counsel to the petitioners were thought of after the declaration of result on the 17th day of July, 2022.
“The said conduct of the respondents, especially the first respondent, amounts to tampering with official records. The conduct of the first respondent in the said election under consideration has produced multiple accusation reports, contrary to vote declaration to conduct of free, fair and credible elections on the basis of one man or woman with one vote.
“Consequently, to forestall a manipulation of BVAS machines in the conduct of elections in Nigeria by the first respondent, the presiding officers at the polling units and other key officers of the first respondent should act on the vest won by them.
“During the conduct of elections, an electronic device embedded in a safe vest, which would have helped you to collect data and information transmittable to a server domiciled either in the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, NIGCOMSAT, the National Secretary Adviser, independent of the first respondent.
“The data stored at the server in any of the said offices will be a resource material for investigation and possible prosecution of any infraction that may occur in the use of the BVAS in the polling units during the conduct of elections.”
The judge added, “We find as a fact that the voting occurred in the election conducted on the 16th day of July, 2022 in the manner stated in the table in paragraph 6.19 of the petitioner’s final written address already reproduced in this judgment; the duty of this tribunal is to deduct the said invalid votes from the lawful votes of the first petitioner and the first respondent to determine who had the majority of lawful votes at the said election.
“The table produced on page 30, paragraph 7.01 of the petitioner’s final written address in response to the first respondent’s final written address on page 17, paragraph 6.21 on the petitioner’s final address shows a graphic demonstration of the lawful votes after the deduction of the said invalid votes cast.
“For the sake of emphasis, the total lawful votes cast for each of the candidates after the said deduction of invalid votes are 314,931 for the first petitioner and 219,666 for the second respondent.
“The second respondent did not score a majority of lawful votes cast for the election. The declaration and return is hereby declared as null and void; the second respondent cannot ‘go low, low and buga won’ as the duly elected governor of Osun State in the election conducted on July 16, 2022.
“Rather, we hereby hold that the first petitioner scored the majority of lawful votes in the said election and is hereby returned as such.
“The first respondent is hereby directed to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the second respondent and give the first petitioner the Certificate of Return as the duly elected governor.”
The judge also declared that the forgery allegation regarding the dates on the school testimonial obtained by Adeleke was proven, but stressed that the 2nd respondent had other certificates that qualified him for the post he contested and subsequently resolved the forgery allegation against the petitioners.
But in a minority decision, a member of the panel, Justice A. Ogbuli, dismissed Oyetola’s petition, saying the primary source of data on Election Day, which were the BVAS machines, should have been relied on by the panel instead of BVAS reports brought by the petitioners.
He also held that the report of physical inspection of the BVAS machines admitted by the panel was not challenged by the petitioners.
He also said the petitioners did not say that the entries on the BVAS machines were not the same as the entries in exhibit RWC, which was the report of the forensic inspection of the machines.
Justice Ogbuli stated, “Exhibit RWC is a document made from the time resources, which are the machines used on the Election Day.
“The exhibit on RWC is in existence and was there on the machine on the date of election. Section 64 subsections 4,5 and 6 of the Electoral Act recognised BVAS machines as a key material to be used in collation of result and in resolution of any dispute arising there from.
“In view of the following, I hold that exhibit BVR is a product of inadequacies and cannot be the best evidence for the determination of the accurate number of accredited voters for the July 16, 2022 election. The same is true of exhibit RBVR. The best evidence in that regard is RBVL 1-119 down to RBVL 1-59 used in the polling units under contest and I so hold.”
Adeleke plans appeal
While reacting to the judgment in a statement by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, the governor faulted the resolution of the over-voting question in favour of Oyetola, calling it “an unfair interpretation against the will of the majority of voters.”
While urging his supporters to remain calm, Adeleke vowed to appeal the judgment and insisted that he remained the winner of the July 16 election.
“I call on our people to remain calm. We will appeal the judgment and we are sure that justice will be done. Let our people be reassured that we will do everything possible to retain this widely acclaimed mandate,” Adeleke stated.
In an address to the people of the state, Adeleke said the discrepancies mentioned by the tribunal chairman were tantamount to a “miscarriage of justice.”
He also said the claim of over-voting was unfounded.
He stated, “My good people of Osun State, we have all heard the split judgment of the governorship election tribunal.
“Two members of the tribunal delivered two opposing judgments; the chairman and the member one. The member two did not deliver any judgment; she abstained.
“The chairman’s judgment affirmed the claim of over-voting, while member one’s judgment agreed with our position as captured by the BVAS machines, which are the primary source of accreditation data of true accreditation on the day of the election.