by Ise-Oluwa Ige and Abiodun Nejo
In a unanimous decision, a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the electoral victory of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State in the June 21, 2014, gubernatorial poll in the state.
The court sealed Fayose’s victory after dismissing the appeal by All Progressives Congress, APC, challenging the governor’s emergence.
The Supreme Court held that the appeal was not only un-meritorious but also anchored on wrong premises.
National Mirror reports that shortly after the governorship election, APC headed for the tribunal to challenge Fayose’s victory.
But the tribunal in its judgement upheld the election and dismissed the petition.
Not satisfied, APC approached the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision of the tribunal.
The court also dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the lower court.
Still aggrieved, the party approached the apex court with 17 grounds of appeal, urging the court to annul the decision of the lower courts.
But the Supreme Court narrowed the 17 issues to only four.
The four issues were that Fayose was not qualified to contest in the election, having been impeached on grounds of embezzlement; that the governor submitted a forged HND certificate from the Polytechnic Ibadan to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; that the Tribunal erred for striking out the names of the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and Chief of Army Staff, COAS, as parties in the suit.
Delivering the lead judgement, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta held that the tribunal was right to have struck out the names of the IGP and COAS as parties in the suit.
He noted that a party to a suit is one which his interest is in dispute or which a suit cannot be decided without him.
The court said both the IGP and COAS had no interest in the election and going by the provision of the Electoral Act as to who constitutes a party to an election petition; the two did not fall into such category as they were not staff of INEC.
The court devoted a lot of time on two other grounds having to do with the allegation that Fayose forged his HND certificate and that he was not fit to contest the election by virtue of the provisions of section 182 (1) (e) of the 1999 constitution, having been impeached during his first tenure after the Code of Conduct Tribunal found him guilty of fraud.
Section 182 (1) (e) of the 1999 constitution as amended bars fraud convicts from seeking elective office for a period of ten years from the date the conviction is pronounced by the law court.
But the Supreme Court held that the purported impeachment of Fayose during his first tenure was not only illegal since the “so called acting Chief Judge of the state” illegally convoked the committee that tried him, but that the resolution of the lawmakers that the governor was guilty of the offence of fraud did not amount to conviction by law court as provided for in section 182 (1) (e) of the constitution.
“A conviction and sentence are the major issues here. The Code of Conduct is not an impeachment panel. Jurisdiction cannot be shared between code of conduct tribunal and impeachment panel. Even though, it was alleged that the governor was impeached for embezzlement, he was not arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction,” the court held.
The court also said that the first impeachment panel gave Fayose a clean bill, adding that the second panel was illegal because the judge that constituted it did not have the power to do so.
The court also held that the state House of Assembly did not substantiate the petition and hence, one could not say that he committed any crime.
Citing section 188 of the Constitution, the court held that the second panel was an unconstitutional panel and that its proceeding was an exercise in futility.
The court resolved the issue against the appellant.
On the issue of forgery, the court held that it is an offence that should be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The court also resolved the issue against the appellant.
Meanwhile, there were jubilations in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, yesterday as the Supreme Court’s ruling filtered into town.
Members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in joyous mood, thronged the streets, in celebration of the victory.
The governor, whose long convoy of government officials and party supporters snaked round the city in appreciation of the crowd that had lined the major streets, urged the opposition to join hands with him in the task of developing the state.
Fayose, who carried a placard bearing the inscription, “God, I thank you, Ekiti people, I thank you for your steadfastness” led the carnival-like procession through Fajuyi-Okesa-Okeyinmi- Oba’s market, Old Garage, Ijigbo-Mugbagba and Ajilosun streets among others.
He expressed delight that all legal tussles weaved around his mandate as governor had died and laid to rest by the Supreme Court.
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