Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Tuesday urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Ladi Adebutu against the judgment of the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which affirmed the election of the Governor during the March 18 elections.
At the hearing of the appeal by the Appeal Court, sitting in Lagos, Abiodun, APC, and INEC told the 3-man panel of justices, led by Justice Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh that the appeal by Adebutu and PDP, lacked merit and was ambitious.
The Tribunal had on September 30, dismissed the petitions by Adebutu and his party and affirmed the re-election of Governor Abiodun.
Leading the charge, counsel to first Respondent (INEC), A.J. Owonikoko SAN urged the Court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
Reacting to the issue of 49,000 disenfranchised voters, raised by the Appellants’ counsel (Chief Chris Uche SAN), Mr Owonikoko referred to paragraphs 4.37 to 4.40 at pages 18 and 19 of his Brief to point out that Appellants only called 48 witnesses. He explained that in cases of disenfranchisement, all the disenfranchised voters must be called as witnesses but Appellants did not do so. He concluded that the Court cannot amplify 48 witness to 49,000 witnesses as Appellants want.
He urged the Court to dismiss the appeal
Counsel to the 2nd Respondent (Prince Abiodun), Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, also identified and adopted his Brief.
As a preliminary point, Chief Olanipekun stated that contrary to the position set out by Chief Uche SAN, the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the Atiku v. INEC case completely encapsulates the issues in the appeal.
He argued that in that appeal, the Supreme Court simply adopted in toto the decision of the Court of Appeal, adding that incidentally, the same Samuel Oduntan who was rejected as a witness by the Court of Appeal in Atiku’s case metamorphosed as PW 93 in the appeal under consideration. In response to the Court’s demand, Chief Olanipekun promised to provide a copy of the judgment.
In addition, Chief Olanipekun SAN emphasised pages 3-5 of his Brief where he identified about 8 key findings of the Trial Tribunal that Appellants did not challenge, paragraph 4.3 of the Brief arguing that Appellants have abandoned about 5 Grounds of Appeal, and issue 3 at page 17 of 2nd Respondent’s Brief where 2nd Respondent argued that Trial Tribunal rightly struck out paragraphs of the Appellants’ pleadings.
On the margin of lead, Chief Olanipekun argued that there was nothing to even consider on margin of lead and urged the Court to dismiss the appeal for lacking merit.
Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, appearing for the third Respondent (APC), emphasised that Exhibit PT609 is not a proper document to use (referring to Pages 71-72 of his Brief).
On the Atiku appeal, Dr Ikpeazu SAN noted that the Supreme Court did not do anything novel as it relied on settled Constitutional positions already espoused in _Ararume v INEC_ and in _Oke v. Mimiko_ to the effect that all witness statements must accompany the Petition.
He argued that all the witnesses who could be said to have given substantial evidence in this appeal did so on subpoenas and thus were rightly discountenanced. He too urged the Court to dismiss the appeal.
Chief Uche SAN counsel to the Appellants had noted that there is a distinction between the facts in the Supreme Court decision in Atiku v. INEC & 2 Ors and his clients’ appeal as cited by the 2nd Respondent in support of First and Second Issues raised.
He also told the judges that Appellants called 94 witnesses, half of which were Polling Unit Agents, adding that on the issue of margin of lead, that elections did not hold in 99 Polling Units based on which about 41,000 votes were excluded.
He also pointed out that up to 37,000 ballot papers utilised by INEC were either not thumb printed or carried multiple thumb prints.
Calling on the appeal to be allowed, Chief Uche said when the 41,000 and 37,000 votes are utilised, the declaration of Governor Abiodun would have been set aside.
The Court of Appeal reserved judgment to a date to be communicated in the future