The Supreme Court has reserved its judgment on the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Ladi Adebutu, challenging the victory of Governor Dapo Abiodun in the March 18 governorship election.
Adebutu’s appeal is rooted in alleged violations of the Electoral Act, 2022, corruption allegations, and challenges to Governor Abiodun’s qualification.
Adebutu, through his legal team led by Chris Uche SAN, presented a compelling case before a 5-man panel, asserting that Abiodun’s re-election should be nullified due to electoral irregularities.
The panel, presided over by Justice John Inyang Okoro, declined to entertain the cross-appeals filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), insisting that the main appeal covers all pertinent issues.
Despite efforts by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, to move the cross-appeals, the panel held its ground, emphasizing its commitment to the outcome of the primary appeal filed by Adebutu.
The heart of the matter revolves around setting aside the majority judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, which affirmed the Tribunal’s decision upholding Abiodun’s victory.
The lower court’s ruling had seen two judges dismissing Adebutu’s appeal, deeming it lacking in merit.
However, Justice Jane Esienanwan Inyang dissented, recognizing merit in the petition and consequently nullifying Governor Abiodun’s victory. Justice Inyang further directed INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Abiodun and ordered a fresh election in 99 polling units where disruptions had occurred.
Chris Uche SAN, representing the appellants, argued that INEC’s failure to conduct fresh elections in the affected polling units rendered the governor’s return unlawful.
He contended that corrupt practices tainted the integrity of the March 18 governorship poll, justifying the appeal to set aside the declared results.
In response, Abiodun Owonikoko, counsel for INEC, urged the Supreme Court to dismiss Adebutu’s appeal. Owonikoko emphasized that the determination of gubernatorial and presidential elections lies not in the margin of lead but in the spread of votes, as stipulated in Section 179 of the 1999 Constitution.
Wole Olanipekun, counsel for the second respondent, echoed the call for dismissal, citing the challenge against concurrent decisions of the two lower courts.
INEC had initially declared Abiodun the winner of the governorship election, securing 276,298 votes against Adebutu’s 262,383 votes, marking a significant chapter in the unfolding legal saga.
The Supreme Court’s judgment holds the key to the resolution of this complex electoral dispute, shaping the political landscape in Ogun State.