Supreme Court today spent about four hours devoted to the long drawn battle for Osun governorship.
Chairing was the Chief Justice himself, Tanko Mohammed who alertedly coordinated the hearing, enforcing rules and affirming the apex court readiness to do justice.
As much as the final judgement is scheduled for July 5th, the public beyond political propaganda may want to peruse the following as the takeaways from the hearing:
1. CJN’S FRANKNESS
Contrary to insinuations,the CJN demonstrated fairness, alertness and passion for adjudication with justice as the ultimate goal. Repeatedly,he affirmed: “We will read your briefs twice ,thrice and even more before we write our judgement. We will do justice”. The insistence to follow substance rather than technicalities was clearly evident.
2. COUNSELS’ STRATEGIES
The counsels on both sides were at maximum alert.The respondents’ lawyers adopted the strategy of dodging the issue, the substance of the case,opting for an exit strategy by picking for errors in the appellant’s brief. Interestingly, the only one the counsel got on one of the four Appeals under consideration was a secondary error which does not touch the primary core of the appeal. The Appelant’s counsels on the other hand combined combative corrective measures before the lord justices while maintaining the focus on the core grounds of the appeal;
3. CONSOLIDATION OF APPEALS
The CJN directed consolidation of the four appeals into two even while allowing all issues to be mentioned and addressed.The main appeal and the cross appeal which was a constititional issue were adopted under dramatic setting.The more than 30 grounds canvassed by the Appealant were thus consolidated .The goal was to fast track the hearing and ease the writing of final judgement;
4. UNANSWERED MAIN APPEAL
The appellant’s counsel adopted the brief of the main appeal which was seeking upturning of Appeal Court judgement and seeking declaration of Ademola Adeleke as the governor of Osun state.
Interestingly, neither APC nor INEC filed any brief on this. Both supported the brief filed by Gboyega Oyetola through his counsel, Wole Olanipekun.
5. CROSS APPEAL SHOTS
The appellant also adopted the brief for the cross appeal, positing that on constitutional ground, Senator Ademola Adeleke should have been declared winner based on September 22 poll results by the INEC in compliance with Section 179. (2) of CFRN. They also Cited a Supreme Court judgement in the case of Buhari versus Obasanjo, where the Supreme court struck down the INEC manual on use of Card Readers as it conflicted with the Electoral Act. The appellant argued that any additional conditions for winning election not known to the constitution should be struck down by the apex court. The CJN and others took copious note during the presentations.
6. APPEALANTS’ LEGAL ERUDITION
Argument that September 22 outcome did not satisfy constitutional requirement of election being held in all parts of the state constituency was countered by appellant’s counsel. The cancellation of seven polling units was described as an illegal act designed to rob the winner of September 22 victory through the holding of another illegal rerun on the 27th;
The Oyetola/APC team at the Supreme Court today failed to come up with ANY CREDIBLE defense against Sen Ademola Adeleke’s solid grounds of Appeal to be declared legitimate Governor of Osun state having satisfied the requirements of Section 179 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Instead of arguing the merits of the case, the respondent went wild with a Preliminary Objection based on an observed minor typo at the last page of the notice of Appeal as transmitted by the Appeal court, particularly page 4,027, where the counsels were listed as “Counsel to the Respondents” instead of “Counsel to the Appellant”. A very trivial and inconsequential typo.
8. CRITICAL LEGAL NOTE
The Supreme Court ruled In JERIC NIGERIA LIMITED v. UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC (2000) 14 NWLR (pt.691), the Supreme Court per KALGO JSC at page 458 that quoted in part:
“…….. The error is as in my respectful view not fatal as to render the appeal incompetent. It is also true as submitted by the learned counsel for the respondent that this court has long moved away from sticking to technicalities as opposed, to the determination of parties rights on merits and substantial justice. See the State v. Gwonto (1983) 1 SCNLR at 160; Amako v. The state (1995) 6 NWLR (pt. 399) 11 at 26; Akpan v. The State (1992) 6 NWLR (pt. 248) 439.
“I am therefore satisfied and hereby find that the putting in of the year “1996 instead of “1997” in referring to the date of the judgment of the trial court appealed against to the Court of Appeal on the Notice of Appeal filed by the respondent, is a mere irregularity in the circumstances and did not vitiate the appeal or render the Court of Appeal incompetent to entertain the appeal”.
9. THE WEAK FOCUS
The typo that respondent’s counsels based their arguments on was so inconsequential that it did not affect them in their replies as they did not refer to it in any of their reply briefs, it also occurred in 1 out of 4 Appeals filed by Senator Adeleke’s team of Counsels, there cannot therefore be any basis for concern or alarm.
Judgement on the consolidated Appeals 553, 554 and 555 as well as the separate cross Appeal 556 were reserved till the 5th of July, 2019.
Adebisi who was in Abuja is based at Ikoyi Lagos.