By Michael Dedon
The apex court in a split decision of five to two members of the panel, on Friday, agreed substantially with the Court of Appeal which ruled that a majority judgement delivered at the tribunal was a nullity.
The court said the judge who had read the majority judgement at the tribunal, Justice Peter Obiora, was “evidently absent” on February 6th, 2019, following the documents before the court because the Lead judge in the Tribunal did not sign the attendance sheet on 6th February.
It was held that it is assumed that he was not in attendance since he didn’t sign the attendance register; hence he cannot be a judge in a case he did not hear its facts and details.
Justice Obiorah on the other hand, affirmed that he was in attendance on the day but omitted to sign the attendance register.
The APC in its appeal argued that the judge’s failure to sign at the end of the proceedings on February 6, 2019, was enough evidence to justify their claim …that Justice Obiora was absent on the day in question. In other words, at both the Appeal & Supreme Courts; the case was no longer about substantive discrepancies & illegalities alleged against INEC by PDP and Adeleke, it was hinged solely on legality of the Composition of the Tribunal on 6th Feb. 2019 and proceeded to dismiss the verdict of the OSUN Election Tribunal on that ground alone.
So why couldn’t the Supreme Court move itself to do substantial justice between the parties by calling for a review of the record of proceedings of the tribunal to ascertain whether or not Justice Obiorah actually sat on the day in question but inadvertently forgot to sign the attendance register or better still make him depose on oath that he was actually in attendance?
More fundamentally, why should the omission of a member of the Election Petition Tribunal Panel be visited on a party? Should the focus of our apex court be just judgment or justice?
Michael Dedon, ESQ, is an attorney and social commentator.