The Supreme Court has upheld the election of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
In a unanimous judgment on Friday, May 24, 2019, a five-man panel of the court dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate in the last governorship election in Ekiti, Kolapo Olusola Eleka.
The PDP and Eleka had appealed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the decision of the Justice Suleiman Belgore-led election tribunal, which held that Fayemi was validly elected.
In the lead judgment by Justice John Okoro, the court held that the appeal was unmeritorious and proceeded to uphold an earlier judgment by the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which affirmed the decision of the election tribunal to the effect that Fayemi was validly elected.
Justice Okoro said he could not interfere with the concurrent findings of the two lower courts – the trial tribunal and the Court of Appeal – because the appellants (PDP and Olusola-Eleka) failed to establish that both lower courts erred and misapplied the law in their judgments.
The judge said: “I have carefully considered the issues canvassed by all the parties to the appeal. I am satisfied to hold that there is no merit in this appeal.
“It has to be noted that the two courts below are concurrent in their findings. It is trite that this court is always very hesitant to interfere with concurrent findings of two lower courts unless their findings are shown to be manifestly erroneous.
“Only where the appellant has established that clear errors of law or facts which application leads to miscarriage of justice that this court can interfere to reverse the concurrent findings.
“As I have said earlier, there is no merit in this appeal, and is accordingly dismissed. I affirm the judgment of the lower court, and I make no order as to cost.”
Ibrahim Muhammad, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justices Olukayode Ariwoola, Paul Galumje and Uwani Abba-Aji (who were also on the panel), agreed with the lead judgment.
The Justice Belgore-led Governorship Election Tribunal, which sat in Apo, Abuja had, in its judgment on January 28, 2019 upheld the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that Fayemi and the APC won the July 14, 2018, governorship election with a total of 197,459 votes as against the 178,121 votes scored by PDP’s Olusola-Eleka.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, to which the PDP and Olusola-Eleka appealed the decision of the trial tribunal, dismissed the appeal in its judgment of March 28, 2019.
Justice Stephen Adah, who read the lead judgment of a three-man panel, resolved the seven issues identified for determination against the appellants.
Justice Adah proceeded to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that it was without merit; a decision the two other members of the panel – Justices Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Emmanuel Agim – agreed with.
Reacting to the judgment yesterday, Governor Fayemi extended an olive branch to Eleka, the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in the election.
Fayemi urged Eleka to join him in building a prosperous Ekiti that would be economically viable to serve the populace.
Fayemi, who had just returned to Ekiti from Abuja, said Eleka is an accomplished Ekiti person, going by what he had read and heard about him, adding that he was ready to work with him to move Ekiti higher.
He said: “Prof Olusola Eleka is an illustrious Ekiti person. Though I am not close to him, with what I have heard and read about him, he is an accomplished Ekiti man.
“He had served this state as a deputy governor, and having pursued his case to the Supreme Court, he should forget about party. He should come to Ekiti party; that is where we all belong, so that we can serve our people better and in a more beneficial way.”
Fayemi described both his recent appointment as NGF chairman and his court’s victory as signals of good things to come for Ekiti and the Southwest region.
Speaking further on the verdict, the governor said: “I have to give glory to God for finally bearing testimony to the fact that the election that brought me into office was credible, and that the primary of my party was the best ever conducted by any party in the history of our nation.
“It also bears testimony to the fact that the so called white papers which indicted me was meant for nowhere but a trash can.
“The supreme court said the foundation trial courts did a yeoman’s job by saying the election in Ekiti was substantially compliant with the provisions of the law.
“Let me thank the Supreme Court for putting a finality to this endless litigation, because distraction is bound to happen when you have endless cases in court.”
On his election as NGF chairman, Fayemi said: “It was Ekiti that elected me governor. But being NGF chairman won’t make me to withdraw from serving Ekiti.
“You can say Ekiti is in the eye of the storm, because I was elected NGF chairman to serve the nation, but there is no way I won’t defend my people in whatever is coming to states. It is not unlikely that I will argue for Ekiti when things like this happens.
“The NGF is a national role. I am just a first among equals.”
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South West yesterday described the Supreme Court victory of Fayemi as the triumph of the supremacy of the Nigerian constitution, rule of law and a new dawn in the independence of the judiciary.
A statement by the APC South West Zonal Publicity Secretary, Karonwi Oladapo, said: “Those who know the workings of the rule of law and tenets of democracy cautioned former Governor Ayo Fayose and his minion, Prof Eleka, against filing their petition, saying such was a mere shadow-chasing, considering the frivolity of the petition and the preponderance of complaints that lacked evidential value in the petition.
“Reasonable people knew that Eleka would not be able to sustain his case after complaining in more than 900 polling units but could only provide witnesses in less than 50 polling units. But because of PDP’s over-reliance on the rule of men over the years to illegally seize people’s mandates, particularly in the South West, Eleka tested the waters again but Buhari’s administration had already straightened the path of the nation’s justice system to allow Nigerians get justice.”
The South West APC leadership applauded Fayemi for maintaining focus while the frivolous litigations were going on.
“He was busy implementing life-lifting programmes and commissioning projects that have impacted positively on the life and well-being of Ekiti people. We are proud of him,” Karounwi said.
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