The appeal filed by the former Governor of Oyo state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi at the Federal Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, against the victory of Senator Kola Balogun of Oyo South Senatorial District in the Febuary 23, 2019 election at the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal has been threw out by the Appeal Court on Friday.
Dissatisfied with the Tribunal judgment, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Ajimobi had approached the Appeal Court asking that the victory of Balogun of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be quashed on grounds including non-qualification for the election and that the election results declared by the electoral body was invalid.
The INEC had declared that PDP candidate scored 105,720 votes to defeat the APC candidate who garnered 92,217 votes.
The appellants led by Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN) had claimed that the election tribunal did not properly evaluate the evidence brought before it before delivering judgment in the petition.
The respondents led by Mr Olalekan Ojo (SAN) however claimed that the tribunal through due diligence examined all evidence tendered before it.
Justice Haruna Samani who delivered the unanimous judgment on Friday on behalf of the two other Justices (Okoronkwo and Ojo) who were not present, said that going by section 138 (1) (a), once the INEC has decided that a candidate has been validly nominated by the party, the issue of non-qualification would not arise. “The issue cannot be raised now. It is certainly settled that the ground for disqualification for nomination is a matter for the Constitution.
“Anyone who is not an interested party will be considered an interloper. Once a candidate is nominated by a party, he cannot be disqualified by any other party”, stressing that the appellant ought to have challenged the non-qualification of the respondent at the High Court.
On the issue of the tribunal not given any probative value to the evidence of the appellant’s witnesses as canvassed by the petitioners, the Appeal Court Justice found that all the witnesses presented were not qualified to testify at the tribunal. They were not polling agents but only collation agents. They did not have any credible evidence before the tribunal and that was why their case failed.
“The appellants failed to adduce reasons why the collation agents could not give evidence before the tribunal. All the oral evidence given by the witnesses were rightly discountenanced by the tribunal, I do hold”.
In the 33 minutes judgment, Justice Samani eventually said that, “This appeal has no merit and so it is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the National Assembly Election Tribunal is hereby affirmed”, he submitted.
In their reaction after the judgment was delivered, Chief Olumuyiwa Makinde who represented Balogun commended the Justices for the well delivered judgment, and S.K. Osuolale on behalf of the appellants also commended the court for its erudition.
Reacting to the judgment, Bamidele Ogunjinmi said, “One of the various issues raised by the appellants was the issue of non-qualification of Senator Dr. Kola Balogun. According to the Appeal Court Justice, such issue ought to have been challenged at the Federal High Court.
The ones raised at the tribunal, it does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate on them. The issues raised at the Court of Appeal failed because the Appeal Court upheld the decision of the lower Election Tribunal.
In his reaction, Senator Balogun told Lagos Post Online that, “First and foremost, we have to give thanks to Almighty God because what has happened, to me and to the opposition camp, is not by anybody’s making but the grace of God. I thank people of my constituency, people of Oyo State and indeed people of Nigeria for their steadfastness in prayers and support. It is again an opportunity for me to continue to fulfil my pledge to the people of my senatorial district and to let them know that I will not disappoint them.
“This judgement is a judgment that is consistent with the decision of the Election Tribunal. It is devoid of any logical contradictions. It has been maximally delivered with the maximum fear of God”.
To his main contender, Balogun said, “Senator Abiola Ajimobi is my brother and my friend. We shall continue to relate with ourselves. It is his right to do what he did and I can’t fault him for taking that decision. The only thing I hear people say sometimes is that it is unwise to get in combatant mission with the grace of God and the will of the people. Once you do that, the result is obvious. So, to me, since this is the final stage of this election petition case, everybody will see that if God says yes, nobody can say no”, he said.