Thursday August 17, 2023
A special panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Wednesday [today]affirmed the decision of the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which had earlier struck out all allegations of vote-buying and voter inducement that PDP and its guber candidate in Ogun State – Ladi Adebutu – made against Governor Dapo Abiodun and APC.
The Court, in its lead judgment read by Justice MB Idris, also upheld another decision of the tribunal which confirmed the validity of the defence filed by Governor Dapo Abiodun.
Recall that on 22 May 2023, Adebutu and PDP filed a reply to the defence filed by Governor Abiodun. In the said reply, Adebutu and PDP alleged, for the first time, that Governor Abiodun and APC bought votes in the 18 March 2023 Ogun State guber elections.
When Governor Abiodun received Adebutu’s reply, the Governor’s lawyers filed an application asking the Tribunal to strike out the reply in its entirety or in the alternative, to strike out offending paragraphs from that reply. The Governor’s lawyers argued that the reply filed by Adebutu and PDP contravened Para 16(1)(a & b) of the Schedule to the Electoral Act and the rules of court pleadings. The Tribunal agreed with the Governor’s lawyers and struck out the entire reply filed by Adebutu and PDP.
It was established before the panel that the allegation made by Adebutu and PDP was an after thought which was hastily put together after Governor Abiodun made weighty allegations backed up with police investigation report establishing that Adebutu and PDP bought votes during the elections in his defence.
It was as a result of this debacle that the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP, Oladipupo Adebutu hurriedly sneaked out of the country and still remains at large till now, while other leaders of the party in Ogun State are currently standing trial in court.
Today, the Court of Appeal confirmed that all allegations of vote-buying in Adebutu’s Reply were incompetent and as such, the Court of Appeal struck out paragraphs 21, 22, 23, 24, 31, 32, 33, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 of the Reply leaving some few hollow paragraphs.
In the same vein on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal threw out the entire appeal filed by Adebutu and PDP against the decision of the Ogun State Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal which upheld the validity of Governor Abiodun’s defence.
Earlier in his defence, Governor Abiodun had made a strong allegations of electoral fraud against the PDP and its candidate, Ladi Adebutu, which was perpetrated during the March 18 governorship election in the state. Rather than counter these weighty allegations, Adebutu’s lawyers belatedly introduced their own counter-allegations of vote buying (all of which have now been struck out) while also asking the Tribunal to strike out the Governor’s allegations of vote-buying.
Adebutu and PDP had argued that their petition did not include allegations of vote buying and so the governor’s defence should not also have included such allegations. However, in its ruling, the Tribunal unanimously held that Governor Abiodun was not restricted to the same issues that Adebutu and PDP raised in their petition and that the Governor was free to allege and prove acts of vote-buying against PDP and its candidate. The Court of Appeal today unanimously upheld that decision. The Court of Appeal described the appeal filed by Adebutu as unmeritorious and struck out the appeal in its entirety.
With these decisions, it is now clear that the afterthought allegations of vote-buying made by PDP have been thrown out and all evidence that they purportedly snuck into the Tribunal will be useless having been confirmed by the Court of Appeal to be based on incompetent claims. On the other hand, the allegations of vote-buying made by Governor Abiodun against PDP and Ladi Adebutu remain competent before the Tribunal whose decision will be rendered in due course.