The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Monday struck out the vote-buying allegation levelled against Governor Dapo Abiodun and the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate in the state, Ladi Adebutu.
AN24.net recalls that Adebutu had challenged the outcome of the March 18 governorship election in the state and the emergence of Abiodun and also alleged there were incidences of vote buying by Abiodun during the election.
However, Abiodun’s lawyers, led by Wole Olanipekun, in their defence, also made an allegation backed up by a police report, establishing that Adebutu and PDP engaged in vote-buying during the elections.
On May 22, Adebutu and PDP filed a reply to the defence by Abiodun and APC, also levelling vote-buying allegations against the ruling party.
The governor’s lawyers, represented by Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, also filed an application seeking the tribunal to strike out the reply in its entirety or, in the alternative, strike out offending paragraphs.
According to Osipitan, Adebutu and the PDP’s reply contravenes paragraph 16(1) (A & B) of the Electoral Act and rules of court pleadings.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice H.N. Kunaza, while ruling on the matter, agreed with Osipitan’s submission.
Justice Kunaza subsequently overruled Adebutu’s lawyers, led by Goddy Uche, with the support of the other two members, Justices J.B. Egele and Sannusi Shehu overruled Adebutu’s lawyers, led by Goddy Uche.
They said the application filed by the governor’s lawyers was not the kind the Constitution requires to be determined at the end of proceedings in judgment.
Relying on relevant provisions of the Constitution, the tribunal held that only applications that challenge the tribunal’s jurisdiction or competence of a petition would be deferred till judgment, whereas the application filed by Abiodun’s lawyers was not that kind of application.
The Tribunal also held that the reply by Adebutu and PDP was incompetent for multiple reasons. The tribunal identified some paragraphs, which, it said, contained unnecessary and repetitive allegations, arguments and legal conclusions (which are not allowed in replies), as well as other paragraphs, which were improper expansions of the petition earlier filed.
However, Adebutu, through his media aide, Afolabi Orekoya, said the ruling has nothing to do with the competence of their petition, saying, “It only allows fair hearing of the 2nd respondent.”
He said he is very confident that the petition is alive, expressing hope that he would crush the 2nd respondent’s case at the main trial.
He said “Our people should be calm and be encouraged that we have a good case at the tribunal. Today’s ruling has no bearing on our petition as our grounds for disqualifying Abiodun’s declaration are intact and strong.”