The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeals file by Senator Iyiola Omisore and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Akure Division, which affirmed the victory of Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola as the winner of the August 9 Governorship election held in Osun State. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court allowed the cross appeal by Aregbesola and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The full panel of the Supreme Court presided over by Hon Justice John Fabiyi JSC also had Hon Justice Sylvester Ngwuta JSC, Hon Justice Olukayode Ariwoola JSC, Hon Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed JSC, Hon Justice Clara Bata-Ogunbiyi JSC, Hon Justice Inyang Okoro JSC and Hon Justice Centus Nweze JSC.
In the leading judgment read by Hon Justice Centus Nweze JSC, the Supreme Court held that the Appellants failed to lead credible and cogent evidence in support of the allegations of non-compliance they made in their petition. The court held that the complaint by the appellants that the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal did not properly evaluate the evidence led in the case has no support from the record. The court painstakingly examined the records and the judgment of the Tribunal and held that the evidence of the Petitioners witnesses in all the seventeen local governments lacked credibility. It was further held that the appellants failed to lead evidence in respect of many areas that it made allegations and therefore the allegations are deemed abandoned as allegations in a petition without evidence to support them are of no moment.
The court made reference to the avalanche of documents tendered by the Appellants but held that the documents cannot avail the appellants because same were merely dumped on the court. The court held that it is trite law that evidence must be led to tie the documents to the aspects of the case for which they were tendered but that the Appellants failed in this regard. It was further held that the lower courts were right in discountenancing the attempt by Counsel to the Appellants to explain the documents in their address. According to the court, evidence on purport of documents must be led in open court and the Appellants failed to do so in the case.
On the evidence of PW15 and PW38 who were called as experts by the Appellants, the Supreme Court held that there was nothing technical or scientific about the evidence they led and therefore, the court held that the lower courts were right in not treating them as experts. Further, it was held that theses witnesses like an iron in a furnace melted under the crucible of devastating cross examination by the Respondents and were badly discredited such that no reasonable tribunal can rely on their testimony.
On the second appeal of the Appellants, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that the Tribunal ought to have dismissed the Petition as an abandoned Petition for failure of the Appellant to apply for notice of pre-haring session in accordance with paragraph 18 of the first schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. The court also held that the Reply of the Petitioners to Respondent’s Reply ought to have been struck out as same was filed out of time. It was further held that the provisions of Interpretation Act on computation of time are not applicable to election petition.
After dismissing the appeal of the Appellants, the Supreme Court then considered and allowed the cross Appeal by Aregbesola’s Counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN. The court held that the Reply of the Petitioners to Respondent’s Reply ought to have been struck out as same was filed out of time.
In respect of the complaints by Aregbesola’s Lawyer about admissibility of certain documents, the Supreme Court held that the avalanche of result forms tendered by the Appellants were not properly certified and that the reports of the expert called are also inadmissible as violating the provision of section 84 of the Evidence Act. The court held that section 84 of the Evidence Act is not limited to documents generated on the internet.
On the whole, the Supreme Court dismissed the Appeals of the Appellants and allowed the Cross-Appeal of the Respondents. All the justices concurred with the leading judgment. In his concurring judgment, Hon Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed, JSC, held that even though the appellants have the right to appeal, the appeal ought not have been filed as same is utterly frivolous. His Lordship also held that the cross appeal by Aregbesola is an overkill.
Speaking to the press after the judgment, Ajibola Basiru, Esq Counsel to All Progressives Congress (APC) stated that even though the cross appeal was an overkill, the judgment of the Supreme Court will be of significance in certain respects, that is; the form of proper certification of public document; inapplicability of Interpretation Act in computation of time in election petition, the scope of section 84 of the Evidence Act of computer generated evidence; and strict compliance with paragraph 18(1) of the first schedule of the Electoral Act and thereby distinguished the previous case of Saheed v Yakowa.