The Court of Appeal has upheld the election of Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, as the winner of the June 18, 2022 governorship election.
The Appellate Court in a judgment delivered virtually on Tuesday dismissed the appeal filed by the defeated Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate, Chief Segun Oni and resolved all the four issues against the appellant.
In dismissing the appeal, the Court also awarded a cost of N200,000 against the Appellants.
In the judgment delivered by the Chairman of the three-member Appeal Panel, Justice Hamma Barka, the Court upheld the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal of December 29, 2022 which held that Oni’s petition failed woefully on all fronts where he was challenging Oyebanji’s return as the poll winner.
The Court agreed with the Tribunal that Oyebanji was qualified to contest the governorship poll having been validly nominated at the January 27 governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State.
The Court also agreed with the Tribunal that the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Monisade Afuye, was qualified to run for that office on grounds that she has a valid Ordinary Level Certificate issued by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) contrary to the allegations of the Respondents that she is holding a forged certificate.
The Appeal Panel agreed with the decision of the Tribunal that the 5th Respondent, the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Monisade Afuye, was qualified to contest holding that she has minimum academic requirement to stand for the election.
The Court held that the arguments of the Petitioners/Appellants (Oni and SDP) was not qualified to contest was not backed by any document ruling that the attempts by the Appellants to bring in new issues of fact not raised in the original petition was unacceptable in law.
The Appeal Panel equally agreed with the Tribunal that Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni and Dr James Akpanudoedehe were qualified to sign the nomination forms of Oyebanji in their former capacities as the Chairman and Secretary of the APC Extraordinary Caretaker Convention Planning Committee.
The Higher Court concurred with the Tribunal that Buni enjoys immunity under Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 hence he cannot be sued in court as earlier decided by the Supreme Court in the case of Eyitayo Jegede v INEC.
“The argument that the 5th respondent was not qualified to contest was not backed by any document. The petitioner/appellant tried to bring in new issues of facts not raised in the original petition. It is clear that the respondent did not raise any issue of fact.
“The appellant thus have no right to introduce new facts in its reply. It had no leeway to aver new facts missing in the initial petition. This is a subtle way of violating the rule of the game.
The tribunal was therefore right in striking out the appellant’s new filing in its reply,” the Panel held.
“Allegation of issue of forgery by the 5th Respondent in the INEC form is criminal in nature. The appellant should first lay the evidence to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt as provided for in criminal matters.
“The tribunal was therefore right to have struck this out the evidence not properly laid. This in essence means the appellant was unable to prove the allegation of forged document.
The evidence of PW2 before the tribunal was as startling as it was erroneous. The evidence was rightly struck out.
“In any event, the evidence provided by the appellant against the 5th respondent was not sufficient enough. No submission of disclaimer from WAEC, the issuing authority, that the document was forged.
“They failed woefully in allegation of forgery which is a criminal offence.
I agree with the court below that the appellant failed to show or prove that the document was forged.”
The Election Petition Tribunal chaired by Justice Wilfred Kpochi had on December 29, 2022 upheld Oyebanji’s election holding that Oni’s petition lacked merit.