Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan reports on the lingering governorship legal battle between Ex-Governor Rashidi Ladoja and incumbent Abiola Ajimobi at the Appeal Court that has reserved judgment
The Court of Appeal in Ibadan has reserved judgment on the governorship election petition appeals filed by former governor of Oyo State and candidate of Accord during this year’s general election in the state, Rashidi Ladoja, and the Accord.
Ladoja and Accord had taken the All Progressives Congress and its candidate Abiola Ajimobi to the court challenging the judgment of the Justice Mohammed Mayaki-led election petition tribunal that upheld the election of the state governor, in its ruling delivered on October 27, 2015.
The five-man panel led by Justice H.M. Ogunjumiju, reserved judgment on the two cases after it adopted briefs from the appellant and four respondents. The panel also comprises Justices H.S. Tsammani, Uchechukwu Oyemenam, J.O.K. Oyewole and M.L. Shuaibu. The panel also struck out the cross appeal filed by the APC.
The respondents in the first appeal marked: CA/IB/GOV/31/2015, filed by Ladoja, are Governor Abiola Ajimobi, APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Accord. Also, in the second appeal marked: CA/IB/GOV/31A/2015, filed by Accord, the respondents are Governor Abiola Ajimobi (first resondent), APC (second respondent), INEC (third respondent) and Rashidi Ladoja.
While Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) is the lead counsel for Ladoja, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) advocated for Abiola Ajimobi, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) appeared for APC, Mallam Yusuf Ali, appeared for INEC and Mr. Adeyemi Olatubora was the lead counsel for Accord.
The tribunal had on October 27, this year, held that the report of the inspection of election materials used by INEC in the conduct of the governorship poll in the state, presented by the principal witness of the petitioner, Mr. Bimbo Adepoju (PWI), could not be relied on by the tribunal to form its judgment, saying the principal witness is a farmer, dealing with arable crops.
The tribunal held that a farmer is not an expert that could analyze the results of election. It further held that Adepoju said during cross examination that he participated in the campaign of Ladoja, voted for him and wanted him to be declared winner of the poll. This, the tribunal said, made Adepoju unqualified to present such reports.
But Clarke, in the first appeal, said PWI is not a mere farmer because he holds Masters Degree and one of the courses he studied was statistics. He then presented “three fundamental issues for determination before the court; one was the exclusion of the evidence of PWI, whose evidence was rejected by the tribunal. We felt that the tribunal was wrong in excluding his evidence, having admitted them in the procedures.
“The ground two of our appeal is that the tribunal claimed PWI just dumped all the exhibits on the tribunal and did not give evidence, which belies the record that we presented before the court today. The third issues was based on the fact that the evidence submitted by PWI were procured during the pendency of the tribunal, and which law does not apply to this particular type of civil matter, which is ‘sui generis’
“But the fundamental issue is the rejection of the evidence of PWI, which is the foundation of our case. Once you reject the evidence, which you yourself admitted, it means you are not ready to look into the merit of our case. The important thing is that the PWI did not only give oral evidence, he submitted documentary evidence. We felt if there are contradictions in his evidence, the document speak for itself and they (tribunal) should have looked into the documents.”
In the second appeal, Olatubora asked the appeal court to re-evaluate these documents tendered by the PWI, “or re-evaluate the evidence placed before the tribunal, set aside the decision of the lower tribunal and declare Ladoja, the winner of the governorship election in Oyo State. He won the majority of the lawful votes.”
But Olanipekun, Akeredolu and Ali vehemently objected the two appeals, praying the court to dismiss them. They argued that 16 contradictions were identified in the evidence of the PWI at the tribunal, which made the lower tribunal found his evidence unreliable; Ladoja and Accord, who were joint petitioners at the tribunal, cannot be two separate appellants; the appellant in the first appeal cannot be respondent in the second appeal and vice versa; a single record cannot be used for the two appeals and so on.