The appeal court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday, 16th August 2023 delivered its ruling on the appeal filed by Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu and the Peoples Democratic Party on a ruling delivered by Justice H. N Kanuza of the Ogun State Governorship Tribunal on Monday, 19th June 2023 on vote buying during the March 18th Governorship Election in Ogun State.
The Ogun State Governorship Tribunal Chairman, Justice H. N Kunaza delivered his ruling on a motion filed by the 2nd respondent, Dapo Abiodun seeking the Tribunal to strike out the Petitioners’ reply to the 2nd Respondent’s Reply to the petition on the ground that the Petitioners (Ladi Adebutu & PDP) cannot raise new issue in their response to the reply of the 2nd respondent.
At the tribunal, the Counsel to the Petitioners, Chief Gordy Uche, SAN argued that the petitioners did not raise any new issue in their reply but gave a response to the new issue raised by the 2nd respondent in his reply which was not part of the issues raised in the petition. After the submission of the 2nd respondent’s Counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the 2nd respondent and struck out the petitioner’s reply to the 2nd respondent’s reply to the petition.
The Appeal No. CA/IB/EPT/ GOV/OG/03/2023 filed by Oladipupo Adebutu and PDP on the 6th of July 2023 was heard on 3rd August 2023 in Abuja and judgement delivered on Wednesday, 16th August, 2023.
In the judgement written by Justice M. B Idris and read by Justice Aliyu Waziri, the Appeal Court sustained paragraphs 2, 4,5,6,10,11,14,15,16 and 18 of the petitioners’ reply to the 2nd respondent’s reply to the petition.
The sustained paragraphs of the petitioners’ reply bother on the submission of forged certificate to the 1st respondent (INEC) by the 2nd respondent (Dapo Abiodun) violence and disruption of polling units by agents of the 2nd respondent and allegation of vote buying against the 2nd respondent (Dapo Abiodun).
The sustained paragraphs also include the petitioners’ defense on the allegation of vote buying raised by the 2nd respondent in his reply to the petition.
Details of the sustained paragraphs are as follow:
P2. The Petitioners deny paragraph 4 of the 2nd Respondent’s Reply and state that the submission of a forged certificate to the 1St Respondent by the 2nd Respondent along with his Form EC9 can be lawfully challenged before this Honourable Tribunal under
Section 134 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the Petitioners and the said complaint is not statute barred.
P4. The Petitioners in specific response to the above paragraphs state that it was rather the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, whose agents were captured on tape recording before and during the election, distributing cash in Ogun State Government envelopes to entice voters to vote for the 2nd and 3rd Respondents. The tape recording was widely distributed on social media and was publicly aired on Arise News Channel on February 19, 2023, and can be accessed via https//yout.be/CN19pKa3DVg. The Petitioners hereby plead and shall at the trial rely on the video clips and media reports of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents’ vote buying.
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P5. The 2nd and 3rd Respondents took advantage of the Naira redesign controversy and the prevailing cash crunch to offer Naira in cash to the electorate. The 2nd and 3rd Respondents shared old Naira notes and when some beneficiaries were worried that they were being given old notes, the agents of the 2nd Respondent assured them that the 2nd Respondent, who is the Governor, would compel the banks to accept them. The Petitioners plead and shall rely on photographs and video recordings where the agents of the 2nd Respondent were caught on tape distributing Naira cash notes to the electorate.
P6. Again, on March 18, 2023, when the Governorship and House of Assembly Elections were held across Ogun State, the 2nd and 3rd Respondents caused to be distributed to the electorate preloaded top-up gift cards of A5, 000 and N10, 000 to buy their votes to financially influence the 2nd Respondent to win the governorship election. These Top up gift cards with PINS and Serial Numbers could either be used to buy airtime by dialing *𝟗𝟕𝟗*𝙋𝙄𝙉# 𝙤𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙗𝙚 𝙪𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙙𝙧𝙖𝙬 𝙤𝙧 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙛𝙚𝙧 𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙗𝙮 𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙜 *𝟗𝟕𝟗*𝙎𝙋𝙄𝘿* 𝘼𝘾𝘾𝙊𝙐𝙉𝙏 𝙉𝙐𝙈𝘽𝙀𝙍* 𝙋𝙄𝙉#. These were deployed massively and widely on Election Day to buy votes. These cards were distributed on Election Day by APC agents who also had Point of Sales (POS) Machines which 2er3 were used to either buy airtime and data, collect cash or cause the amount preloaded in the accounts to be sent to voters’ accounts. The Petitioners plead and shall rely on these preloaded cards at the hearing of this petition.
P7. The Petitioners state that the 1st Petitioner’s Family only shared endowment cards at the burial ceremonies as burial ceremonial souvenirs of his philanthropic and benevolent mother, late Chief Mrs. Caroline Oladunni Adebutu, through her Endowment Schemes which were in existence in her lifetime and which she had utilized in mass empowerment programs. The 2nd Respondent is aware of this fact as he was personally in attendance during the said burial as a guest of the 1st Petitioner’s father, Chief Kessington Adebukunola Adebutu. The said cards had nothing whatsoever to do with vote buying or inducement of voters to vote for the Petitioners, and had nothing to do with the election.
P11. The election in the polling units listed in paragraph 9 of the 2nd Respondent’s Reply to the Petition were cancelled due to violent disruptions by the agents of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents when the envisaged that the 2nd Respondent was not likely to win in those polling units and also due to over voting and not as a result of willful disruption of election materials and resistance to the use of BVAS nor any act of the Petitioners. The Petitioners state that the allegation of willful disruption of election materials and resistance to the use of BVAS by the voters is false and an afterthought of the Respondents.
P14. The Petitioners deny paragraph 30 of the 2nd Respondent’s Reply and state that neither the Petitioners nor their agents were involved in the procurement or distribution of customized pre-paid Verve ATM Cards neither was any of the Petitioners’ agents apprehended by law enforcement agents for any offenses whatsoever during or after the conduct of the election. The Petitioners categorically state that none of the Petitioners’ agents could have made any statement to law enforcement agents that the Petitioners instructed, knew or consented to any act of vote buying as mischievously claimed by the 2nd Respondent.
P15. The Petitioners further state that no voter could have benefited from any act of vote buying from the Petitioners as the Petitioners never engaged in such an act, neither could any voter have admitted to any law enforcement agency that the Petitioners instructed, knew and consented to any vote buying scheme.
P16. The Petitioners contend that any purported statements made to law enforcement agents by individuals purporting to be agents of the Petitioners or voters were concocted and were procured by the 2nd Respondent, for the purposes of defending this petition. The Petitioners shall at the trial put the 2nd Respondent to the strictest proof of the said allegation and the existence of such statements.
𝐏𝟏𝟖. The Petitioners deny paragraph 40 of the 2nd Respondent’s Reply and state that the list of PVCs collected, though not utilized for accreditation and voting on election day, contains the total number of PVCs collected by voters in each polling unit of Ogun State and is very vital in determining whether individuals without PVCs were allowed to vote in a polling unit. The said list clearly shows the maximum number of eligible voters per polling unit.
With the Appeal Court judgement, it’s crystal clear that 2nd and 3rd respondents have case to answer bothers on vote buying and other allegations raised by the petitioner.