The battle for the Ekiti South senatorial seat has shifted to the Court of Appeal as Senator Dayo Adeyeye, has filed an appeal against the declaration of the former occupant, Senator Biodun Olujimi as the poll winner.
Adeyeye filed a 19-ground appeal against the judgment of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which nullified his victory and declared Olujimi the winner of the poll held on February 23, 2019.
The APC candidate also assembled a team of lawyers led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, to win back his mandate at the Appeal Court.
In the notice of appeal filed on Monday at the Ado-Ekiti Division of the Court of Appeal, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs is seeking two reliefs in his bid to upturn Olujimi’s victory at the tribunal.
Adeyeye prayed the appellate court “to allow the appeal and set aside the declaration and return of Olujimi.”
While Adeyeye ran on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Olujimi, the immediate past Senate Minority Leader sought re-election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The Senate spokesman urged the Court of Appeal to affirm his declaration and return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the senatorial poll held in the district on February 23.
Respondents in the appeal are Olujimi (1st), PDP (2nd), INEC (3rd) and APC (4th) as the appellant is challenging the whole decision of the tribunal.
The three-member panel of the tribunal led by Justice D.D. Adeck, in a judgment delivered on September 10, 2019, ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return given to Adeyeye and issue a fresh one to Olujimi.
The panel upheld Olujimi’s averments that there was no proper accreditation, there was no proper account of ballots and that the number of votes or ballots recorded was more or less than the number of accredited voters, among others.
After the tribunal deducted votes from what the two parties scored at the election, PDP was left with 54,894 and APC was credited with 52,243.
Adeyeye in his appeal, averred that the tribunal’s verdict was a miscarriage of justice, complaining that votes cast for his party (APC) were wrongfully nullified by the panel to arrive at its conclusion.
The appellant maintained that the trial judges erred in law by relying on the evidence of petitioners witnesses (PWs) 1, 3 to 14, result sheets and voters registers to nullify the results of the election at the concerned polling units and consequently deducting 2,207 votes from the votes of APC and 933 votes from the votes of PDP.
One of the errors in law of the tribunal, according to Adeyeye, was its acknowledgment that the report of the inspection of ballot papers came about after the filing of the petition.
He contended that the tribunal did not avert its mind to decided authorities of superior courts of the land in holding that it was proper for it to countenance the inspection report.
The appellant claimed that the petitioners/respondents did not tender any ballot paper at the trial and failed to give evidence to show how the alleged alterations and mutilations of the result sheets prejudiced or affected the results of the election.
Adeyeye also picked holes in the evidence of PW 15, Chief Bunmi Olugbade, on the grounds that he (Olugbade) was not the maker of the electoral documents purportedly inspected to generate inspection report in question.
He argued that the tribunal had no justification to accord probative value to the evidence of PW 15 on the inspection report maintaining that the tribunal had found the evidence to be hearsay.
Adeyeye averred: “The tribunal itself had discountenanced the evidence led by the PW 15 on Exhibits P4 to P84 on the premise that he was not there when those documents were being filled and that the documents constituted documentary hearsay in his hands.
“It was shown that the PW15 did not sign the attendance register on two days, to wit: 12/4/19 and 16/4/19 and the PW15 admitted under cross-examination that the attendance register was signed on each day of inspection.
“The tribunal relied on speculation and oral evidence to vary the contents of the voter register. There was no indication as to what was inspected on the said two days of 12/4/19 and 16/4/19. The decision of the Tribunal occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice in this regard.
“The tribunal itself referred to the case of Andrew & 1 Anor. v. INEC & Ors. (2018) 9 NWLR (PT 1625) 5 where the Supreme Court held that the evidence required in an election matter is not the one which was picked up from perusing documents made by others but of eyewitnesses who were present when entries in the form were being made and could testify how the entries in the documents were arrived at.”