The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, said it was satisfied that Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, possessed the requisite educational qualification to contest the last Governorship Election in Osun State.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of Justices, nullified as “perverse”, the judgment of an Abuja High Court in Bwari, which voided Adeleke’s nomination on the premise that he used forged WAEC Certificate and secured clearance to participate in the Osun gubernatorial election that held on September 22, 2018.
Two Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Wahab Raheem and Adam Habeeb, had in a suit they filed before the election was conducted, alleged that Adeleke made false declarations in the Form CF001, he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Mr. Bankole Akomolafe, alleged that contrary to what was submitted to INEC, Adeleke, did not sit for WAEC examination in 1981 as he claimed, since there was nothing like the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination as at then.
Besides, the duo maintained that NECO examination that Adeleke claimed he sat for could not be genuine, considering that the body was not in existence as at the time the Defendant said he sat for the examination.
Following the suit, the high court, in a judgement delivered by Justice Othman Musa on April 2, held that Adeleke who is currently representing Osun West Senatorial District, lacked the minimum educational qualification prescribed in section 177 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The court noted that the section stipulated that candidates vying for governorship position must be educated up the secondary school level.
Justice Musa stressed that whereas the court found that Adeleke entered secondary school in 1976, he said there was no record to show that the PDP’s flag- bearer actually graduated as his name was not found in the school’s register from 1980.
The court held that the result Adeleke attached to the form CF001 he used to secure clearance from INEC, was fake.
It stressed that the result was found to be different from the one that was presented to the court by the principal of Ede Muslim High School, Ede, Osun State, where Adeleke purportedly graduated from.
Consequently, the court held that his nomination to participate in the September 22, 2018, governorship election was bound to be nullified.
However, the high court verdict was on Thursday, dismissed for being perverse and in contradictory to documentary and oral evidence that was adduced by both the parties and witnesses.
The appellate court, in a lead Judgement by Justice Emmanuel Agim, held that the trial denied Adeleke fair hearing by deliberately refusing to properly evaluate and consider all the evidence that showed that he attended Ede Muslim Grammar School Ede and sat for WASC in 1981.
It noted that the trial court insisted that Adeleke did not complete his secondary education, despite the testimony of the School Principal as well as the Deputy Registrar of WAEC that testified and tendered evidence during hearing on the matter.
The appellate court further observed that owing to an application by the Plaintiffs, the court summoned the WAEC boss who deposed an affidavit and also tendered a ledger that indicated that in the exam it conducted in May/June 1981, Adeleke, was candidate number 149, with his center number as 19645.
It also noted that the examination body submitted document that contained the result of all candidates (001-221) that sat for Exam in the school, with Adeleke’s result showing that while F9 was recorded for him in English language, the other subjects were withheld.
The appellate court held that conclusion of the high court that Adeleke dropped out of school was not supported by any evidence that was brought before the court.
“If he had dropped out of school, he would not have sat for WAEC in 1981”, Justice Agim added.
Relying on several Supreme Court decisions, the appellate court held that as far as Adeleke educational pursuit was up to the School Leaving level, it did not matter whether he passed the examination or not.
Besides, it held that Justice Othman was wrong when he assumes jurisdiction and voided Adeleke’s nomination, based on issues that were previously resolved on August 8 by a High Court in Oshogbo.
It held that the Abuja court, including the plaintiffs, were estopped from querying Adeleke’s educational qualification, since a court of same coordinate jurisdiction had delivered judgment on it.
More so, the appellate court held that the substantive suit was ab-initio defective, stressing that it has become status barred since it was filed outside the mandatory 14 days section 285(9) of the Constitution provided for pre-election matters.
It held that any suit that sought to disqualify a candidate under section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, amounted to a pre-election matter in which judgment must be delivered in writing within 180 days.
In the instant case, it noted whereas the plaintiffs lodged their case over 43 days after Adeleke’s name was submitted to INEC, the trial court on its part, delivered its judgment 209 days from September 4 when the case was filed.
“The judgement haven been delivered out of time is void”, the appellate court held.
While upholding all issues Adeleke raised in his appeal, the appellate court, said it was satisfied that he met all the requirements stipulated by section 177(d) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and was therefore qualified to contest the Osun Governorship election.
The court invoked its powers and struck out the substantive suit that led to Adeleke’s disqualification, even as it awarded a cost of N3million against the two APC Chieftains.
It will be recalled that the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had in a two-to-one split judgment on March 22, declared Adeleke as the valid winner of the gubernatorial contest.
Judgement of the tribunal was on March 9, upturned by the appellate court, which affirmed the victory of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of who was candidate of the APC in the election.