By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
Senator Ademola Adeleke was qualified to run and contest for the 2018 governorship election in Osun State, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has ruled.
To booth, the Court ordered that Adeleke be paid N3m by the men who took him to the lower court, which earlier disqualified him.
The Court of Appeal held that the FCT High Court in Bwari presided over by Justice Othman Musa, which nullified the candidacy of Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the September 22, 2018, Osun State governorship election, lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit in the first place, since the suit was filed more than 14 days from the cause of action.
It equally faulted the judgment of the Abuja High Court on the grounds that the judgment was delivered well outside the 180 days provided by the law, and consequently set it aside.
The appellate court in its judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim said, “The suit in the lower court was filed out of the 14 days envisaged by the law for a cause of action in a pre-election matter to be filed as they filed theirs forty-three days later.
“The suit was statute barred and the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the it.
“Another reason why it is a nullity is that the judgment was delivered 208 days from the day of filing of the suit before it, instead of the 180 days envisaged by the law”, Justice Agim held.
It added that since judgment was delivered without jurisdiction, the Judgment is null and void.
On the issue of territorial jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal agreed with lawyers to Adeleke that Justice Oathman lacked the territorial jurisdiction to have heard the suit in the first place, because a High Court in the FCT cannot seat over a pre-election matter that has to do with the governoship election in Osun State.
The court also held that it was a gross miscarriage of the appellants right to fair hearing for the lower court not to have considered all the documents and facts placed before it before reaching a decision that the PDP governorship candidate falsified his certifcate.
According to Justice Agim, it is curious that the lower court abandoned the evidence it asked for from WAEC and not consider the said documents before reaching a decision. “This is a wrong approach”, the court held, ” The appeal succeeds and is upheld”.
Justice Agim subsequently ordered the first and second respondents, Wahab Raheem and Adam Habeeb, to pay N3m to senator Adeleke as cost.
Meanwhile, Senator Ademola Adeleke has described the Appeal Court’s Judgement as a vindication of his innocence. An elated Adeleke in a statement by his Spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed that the Judgment of the appellate court has saved his image and credibility from what is believed is a calculated smear campaign.
“I am happy to read the judgement which confirmed and established the truth.I forged no certificate or testimonial.I fulfill constitutional requirements to contest elections.I am a law abiding honest politician who is a victim of power mongers who think the way to retain the stolen mandate is to tarnish my image.
“I thank the judiciary for rescuing me and the good people of Osun state.The goal of my detractors was to paint me in the worst of image.Today I am vindicated.I thank the judiciary ,the good people of Osun state and God Almighty.I have full confidence that at the Supreme Court justice will be done. Our stolen mandate will be restored”, he said.
Adeleke in his appeal against his nomination by the trial court had told the Court of Appeal in Abuja that he never forged the West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate he presented to INEC to secure clearance for the gubernatorial election.
He had insisted that the certificate attached to his nomination form CF 001 was lawfully issued to him and as confirmed by WAEC in its affidavit evidence submitted to the Federal Capital (Territory FCT) High Court.
He therefore pleaded with the court to set aside the Judgment of Justice Musa which he said erroneous held that his certificate was forged as alleged by two chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Adeleke further told the appellate court that Justice Musa erred in law when it ignored document he ordered to be presented before it in reaching his decision that Adeleke did not possess requisite academic qualification for the office of Governor, adding that there was no case of non qualification or forgery against Adeleke before the lower court.
He consequently urged the Appeal Court to set aside the Judgment of the lower court and dismiss the suit of the two APC chieftains for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Similarly, the PDP in its own appeal argued by Emmanuel Enoidem, urged the appellate court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent and statute barred.
The PDP legal adviser said the suit was caught by the Fourth Alteration Act to the 1999 constitution, having not been filed within the 14 days allowed by law.
According to Enoidem, the suit was filed after 44 days the cause of action arose while, judgment was delivered outside the 180 days prescribed by law for a pre-election matter. The PDP had conducted its primary on July 21, 2018, while the plaintiffs who are respondents in the appeal had filed their case on September 4, 2018 and judgment delivered on April 2, 2019.
The PDP in further urging the court to allow its appeal and set aside the Judgment of the lower court, submitted that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit because the cause of action arose in Osun State.
In their own argument the two respondents through their counsel, Joel Akomolafe, however urged the court to uphold the judgment of the lower court, adding that the appellants did not appeal the issue of jurisdiction at the lower court.
He said that the holding of the trial court remains valid in as much as it was not appealled against by the appellants.
He informed the court that the trial court had dismissed Adeleke and PDP’s motion challenging jurisdiction on the grounds that it was canvassed balatedly. But Ogunwumiju, replying on point of law said that their appeal covers both the ruling and judgment of the lower court.
Recalled that two Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Wahab Raheem and Adam Habeeb, had before the governorship election in Osun State dragged Adeleke to court, accusing him of not possessing the requisite educational qualification (secondary school certificate) to contest for the office of governor.
They prayed the court for an order to disqualify Adeleke from participating in the September 22, 2018 governorship election in the state on the grounds that he did not possess the requisite educational qualification to do so.