The Court of Appeal sitting in Akure has upheld the decision of the lower tribunal, dismissing the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate in the August 9, 2014 governorship election in Osun State, Iyiola Omisore.
The court, on Thursday, accepted the defence of Governor Rauf Aregebsola of the All Progressives Congress that Omisore’s petition ought to have been dismissed as an abandoned petition in the first instance by the State Election Petition Tribunal before hearing by the Justice Elizabeth Ikpejime-led tribunal.
The Justice Gana Mshelia-led Appeal Court, in a unanimous decision, dismissed Omisore’s appeal for incompetence, stressing that the grounds of the appeal did not arise from the judgment of the tribunal.
In determining the appeal, the court adopted the seven issues raised by the appellants and upheld the preliminary objections by Aregbesola and the APC’s counsel, while resolving the issues against the appellant.
Referring to the Tribunal’s judgment, the Appeal Court noted that the decision of the tribunal was that Aregbesola’s counsel did not make any admission, and held that Omisore failed to appeal this specific decision of the tribunal.
The Court of Appeal further held that the evidential burden on the appellant to prove his case would only shift to the respondent, if the appellant had put forward cogent, credible and reliable evidence of non- compliance, which the appellant had failed to do in the appeal.
It also resolved that contrary to the complaint of the appellants, the tribunal applied standard of proof on preponderance of evidence in relation to allegation of non-compliance and malpractices.
The court also upheld the cross-appeal filed by Aregbesola when he dismissed the PDP and Omisore’s petition as having been abandoned for failure to comply with the requirement of filing pre-hearing notice within the stipulated time under paragraph 18 of First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended.
It however stated that the tribunal was wrong to have saved the petition relying on paragraph 53(1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act “because Paragraph 53(1) only applies where the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act does not provide for the consequences of non-compliance with the rules.”
The Court of Appeal was convinced that paragraph 18(4) expressly provided for consequences of failure to issue application for pre-hearing notice.
Omisore has, however, vowed to appeal the dismissal.
Omisore, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone through his media aide, Mr. Victor Oriola, said he was not going to let the alleged manipulation of the August 9, 2014 governorship election go without fighting it to the very end.
He said, “We will go through the whole gamut of the legal process. We believe we have a good case and we will pursue it to the end.
“All the areas overlooked at the tribunal and the Appeal Court will be visited by the Supreme Court.”
(PUNCH) Reacting to the Court of Appeal’s verdict, the APC in Osun State hailed the judgment, describing it as a confirmation of the rejection of Omisore by the majority of the people of the state.
The Director of Publicity of the APC in Osun State, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, said this in a statement in Osogbo on Thursday.
The statement read, “Even if Omisore decides to go as far as the Supreme Court to plead his phantom victory at that election, he will also fail, because the people’s will not to elect him as the governor of the Osun State is emphatic.”
It will be recalled that Justice Elizabeth Ikpejime- led Election Petitions Tribunal had on February 6th dismissed Omisore’s petition against Aregbesola.
Not satisfied with the verdict of the lower tribunal, the petitioner had filed an appeal against it to the Appeal Court in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
But the appellate court also dismissed the PDP candidate’s appeal.