Abiodun Win; AsTribunal Strikes Out Adebutu’s Reply On Vote-Buying - The People's Voice


Monday, June 19, 2023

Abiodun Win; AsTribunal Strikes Out Adebutu’s Reply On Vote-Buying

By Mercy James, Abeokuta

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Monday struck out a reply filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ladi Adebutu, on an alleged vote-buying during the March 18 election in the State.

Adebutu in the petition marked EPT/OG/GOV/03/2023 is challenging victory of Governor Dapo Abiodun based on alleged non-compliance to the Electoral Act and corrupt practices during the election.

The Three-man panel led by Justice Hamidu Kunaza ruled on one of the preliminary applications during its pre-hearing sitting on Monday.

Lead Counsel to the second respondent (Abiodun), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had filed an application challenging the petitioner’s reply dated May 22, 2023,
bothering on the allegations of vote-buying by the Governor during the last election.

The Governor’s legal team raised issue of vote-buying against Adebutu and the PDP in the reply to the original petition, but the petitioner’s counsel in the response in turn accused the second respondent (Abiodun) of same allegation of financial inducement of voters during the election.

A member of Abiodun’s legal team, Prof Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) who argued the application before the Tribunal said the petitioner had surreptitiously introduced vote-buying as a new issue and fact while responding to the second respondents’s reply.

According to him, introduction of new issue/fact in the reply was against paragraph 16 1A of the First Schedule of Electoral Act.

Osipitan said some paragraphs in the petitioner’s reply were offensive and prayed the Tribunal to strike it out for being incompetent.

But the counsel to Adebutu, Goddy Uche (SAN) asked the Tribunal to reject the second respondents’ application for lacking in merit, saying it was used as a delay tactic on the petition.

Uche said the second respondent in some paragraphs in the reply made allegation of financial inducement of voters by Adebutu during the March 18 governorship election, saying the petitioner merely responded to the opponent’ accusations as contained in the reply to the original petition.

He said the petitioner didn’t raise the issue of vote-buying in the petition abinitio.

In its unanimous ruling read by the Chairman, Justice Hamidu Kunaza, the struck out the petitioner’s reply dated May 22, 2023.

The Tribunal held that the petitioner’s reply if allowed would constitute injustice as the second respondent doesn’t have opportunity to respond to the petitioner’s reply.

The panel held that a reply should not be a medium to raise new issue which was not raised in the petition.

“The petitioner’s reply dated May 22, 2023 is hereby struck out,” the Tribunal held.

However, the Chairman emphasised that the ruling didn’t affect the merit of the petition as petition itself would be determined during the hearing stage which would soon commence.

He , however, adjourned the sitting to June 22, 2023, for another ruling.

Speaking to journalists shortly after the ruling, a lawyer in Adebutu’s legal team, Olumuyiwa Obanewa said the legal team would study the ruling and decide whether or not to file an appeal.

Obanewa said “The position of the tribunal is that the reply that we filed to the reply of the second respondent who is the governor of Ogun State that the reply raises issues that the second respondent would have no opportunity to respond to and therefore those issues would not be allowed. The petition is still competent and the reply filed by respondents is still competent.

“In the reply of the second respondent, they raised the issue of vote-buying and in our own attempt to respond to those issues because we believed those issues were new issues that were not contained in our own petition originally. So, if you are now raising the issue of vote-buying and we have the opportunity of also saying that you were also involved in vote-buying, we should be free to bring out those issues.

“But in the ruling, the court (Tribunal) didn’t agree with us totally. We will look at the ruling, if there is need for us to appeal against that ruling, we will do that.”

Also speaking, a lawyer in Abiodun’s legal team, Deji Enisehin said “The petitioner tried to bring in some new facts which ordinarily should have been part of the petition, while responding to the second respondent’s reply.

“We raised an objection to that and the court agreed with us in line with the principle of law.”

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