Appeal Court reserves ruling on Edo governorship election tribunal judgment
Dismisses PDP’s, Ize-Iyamu’s attempt to amend records
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City yesterday reserved judgment in an appeal filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in the September 26 governorship election in Edo State.
The party and its candidate had challenged the verdict of the tribunal, which upheld Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the elected governor of the state.
It was an over five hours of legal fireworks by counsel to all the parties before the five-man appeal panel headed by Justice M.B. Dongban-Mensem.
Ize-Iyamu and the PDP had through their lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN) and 66 others filed an appeal against the judgment of the tribunal presided over by Justice Ahmed Badamasi.
Before the indefinite adjournment of the ruling, the panel had unanimously dismissed a motion on notice brought by Ize-Iyamu pursuant to Order 6 Rule 1, Court of Appeal Rules, 2016, and Section 36(1) of the constitution for the correction/amendment of the trial court’s record of his evidence-in-chief.
He prayed for a leave of court to rely and use the evidence of the first appellant as recorded by Justice Gilbert Ngele (Member 1) of the trial tribunal instead of that of the tribunal’s chairman, Justice Ahmed Badamasi.
The appellant also sought an order deeming the record of his evidence by Justice Ngele, made on January 30, as the correct record of his evidence-in-chief at the lower court.
Their submissions were faulted by counsel to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Obaseki and APC, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) respectively.
Olanipekun argued that Section 285 (4) of the Constitution indicates that the quorum of the lower tribunal consists of the chairman and one member, wondering why the appellant wanted to substitute the recording of the chairman.
Olanipekun said oral evidence was forbidden except in cases where a witness was adopting his written position.
But ruling on the motion on notice, Justice Dongban-Mensem said: “Having listened to all arguments canvassed by the lead counsel of all the appellants and respondents, I hold that no exceptional circumstance has been shown to warrant the amendment of the record of the tribunal as taken by the chairman. I hereby dismiss this application.”
In the substantive appeal, the appellants argued that the decision of Justices Badamasi, Ngele and Kadi Usman of the tribunal, which upheld Obaseki as governor, lacked merit.
They raised 41 grounds for appeal and nine issues for determination. Ali prayed the court to determine whether the trial tribunal was correct in its approach in considering and dismissing their case considering the defence of the respondents.
They prayed the court to allow the appeal, upturn the judgment of the tribunal and grant the main reliefs sought pursuant to Section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act.
Urging the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit, Olanipekun argued that the crux of the petition, which was alleged non-compliance, was abandoned at the trial.
He said the petition was dismissed based on paucity of evidence led in its support, adding that the relief for the nullification of the election sought by the appellants was ungrantable because they failed to seek a prior relief for the election to ground their claim to be returned as winners of the election.
He, therefore, contended that the court lacks jurisdiction to nullify elections on the areas the appellant alleged non-compliance because no relief was sought for nullification.