ABUJA -The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, restored the vote buying allegations made by the Peoples Democratic Party and its governorship candidate, Oladipupo Adebutu against Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress.
The appellate court gave the ruling in an appeal marked: CA/IB/EPT/GOV/OG/03/2023, filed by Adebutu and PDP on the 6th of July, 2023, which was heard on August 3, 2023.
The appeal was against the ruling of Justice A. Kanuza of the Ogun State Governorship Tribunal delivered on June 19, 2023, on vote buying during the March 18, Governorship election in Ogun State.
The Tribunal had ruled in favour of the 2nd respondent and struck out the petitioner’s reply to the 2nd respondent’s reply to the petition.
But on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal panel in a judgement written by Justice M. B Idris and read by Justice Aliyu Waziri, sustained paragraphs 2, 4,5,6,10,11,14,15,16 and 18 of Adebutu and PDP's (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 distruption of polling units by agents of the 2nd respondent and allegation of vote buying by the 2nd respondent.
Also, the sustained paragraphs include the petitioners defence on the allegation of vote buying raised by the 2nd respondent in his reply to the petition.
At the tribunal, Counsel to the Petitioners, Chief Gordy Uche, SAN had argued that the petitioners did not raise any new fact 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.
Recall that in the ruling, the Chairman of the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Kunaza had, while delivering his ruling on a motion filed by the 2nd respondent, Dapo Abiodun seeking the tribunal to strike out the Petitioner’s reply to the 2nd Respondent’s reply to the petition on the grounds that the Petitioners (Ladi Adebutu & PDP) held that the Petitioners cannot raise new fact in their response to the reply of the 2nd respondent.
Some details of the sustained paragraphs are as follows: "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.
"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 and and 3rd Respondents' vote buying.
"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 and 3rd Respondents shared old Naira notes and when some of the 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 Nara cash notes to the electorate.
"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 pre-loaded 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 dialling *979*PIN# or could be used to withdraw or transfer cash by dialling *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 Sale (POS) Machines which 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 pre-loaded cards at the hearing of this Petition.
"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.
"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 wilful disruption of election materials and resistance to the use of BVAS nor any act of the Petitioners. The Petitioners state that the allegation of wilful disruption of election materials and resistance to the use of VAS by the voters is false and afterthought of the Respondents.
"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 customised pre-paid Verve ATM Cards neither was any of the Petitioners' agents apprehended by law enforcement agents for any offences 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.