Monday, 4th December 2023

Lagos governorship election petition tribunal reserves judgment

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
13 August 2023   |   3:02 am
The Lagos State Governorship Election Tribunal has reserved judgment in the petition filed by the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and the People’s Democratic Party candidate (PDP), Dr. Olajide Adeniran (Jandor) against the election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu...

Cross section of Lawyers at Election Petition Tribunal

The Lagos State Governorship Election Tribunal has reserved judgment in the petition filed by the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and the People’s Democratic Party candidate (PDP), Dr. Olajide Adeniran (Jandor) against the election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat. 

The tribunal headed by Justice Arum Igyen Ashom said it would communicate a date for judgment to the parties after counsels representing parties adopted their final written addresses. 

At the resumed proceeding, counsel representing Governor Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat (2nd and 3rd respondents), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the petitions of the LP and PDP for lacking in merit.

He argued that the matter of non-qualification of the deputy governor as claimed by the LP was to no issue as the allegation of his renunciation of Nigerian citizenship and the swearing of oath of allegiance to the United States were not sufficiently proven. 

He told the tribunal that the petitioner “abandoned” his petition in his final written address, noting that there was no reference to the second respondent but instead the address dwelt on the third respondent.

“They have abandoned their petition and also abandoned any issues against the second respondent. The petition borders on non-qualification and the written address borders on disqualification. There is a jurisprudential difference. 

“The petitioner also put some exhibits before the tribunal in respect of the third respondent. The exhibits have no name and no signature.”
he purported oath of allegiance is of Mr Nobody. It’s omnibus,” he said.

He further submitted that election petition is different from election expedition. “It’s not a cruise. What the petitioner has embarked upon is a frivolous expedition. They are walking on banana peels and the petition has to fail. If wishes were horses, the petitioner may in future become governor. We urge the court not to accede to their request as it’s not the duty of the tribunal to assist the petitioner resuscitate their case which has been abandoned.

“The petition is frivolous. This is the turf of law and it’s what is presented here that counts. We do law here not on social media,” Olanipekun concluded.

Similarly, counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC),  Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), contended that the argument of the petitioner about citizenship of the deputy governor were not duly proven by the petitioners. 

He said: “Two issues were formulated. One about the effect of his oath of allegiance, the second is about Mr. Governor putting him forward. So, it’s all about a person who was not sold to the electorate. So, it relieves the court of the burden of dealing with other irrelevances.

“It’s important that the court has a chance to demonstrate whether Nigerians who remit money back home are second class citizens. The third respondent got a Ph.D. abroad in 1991 in the U.S. and he was headhunted back to Nigeria. Are we saying Nigerians abroad cannot come back to deploy the wealth of knowledge and experience they have garnered abroad?

“In any case, we thought we were coming here to defend the elections but we ended up turning this to an immigration court. Thirty pages of their address were devoted to this – the future of Nigerians to hold office once they acquire foreign nationality!

“Clause 14 of the American passport states that your being granted citizenship does not relieve you of your obligation to your country of birth. His allegiance to the U.S. does not void his allegiance to his country of birth.”

However, counsel to Rhodes-Vivour, Mr. Olatunji Benson, prayed the tribunal to hold the position of his clients that the deputy governor did not qualify to contest and he and the governor should be removed from office and the petitioner declared as the governor of Lagos State.
In his arguments, he cited Section 182(1-5) of the constitution, which he said disqualifies certain persons from holding certain political offices.

“Has there been proof that the third respondent is caught by the provisions of S 182(1a)? We say we have proven those facts,” he noted. Counsel to the PDP, Mr. Clement Onwuenwunor, asked the Tribunal to dismiss Rhodes-Vivour’s petition for lack of evidence.

He said: “One of the issues raised by the petitioner is whether the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act? On this issue, we say that they have provided no scintilla of proof to show it wasn’t. A petition erected on such an allegation was sought to be proven by 10 witnesses in a state that has 13,325 polling units. The petition is materially challenged.

“The petitioner dumped an avalanche of documents before the tribunal without speaking to them. The tribunal should therefore dismiss the petition.”
The learned silk also argued that the LP candidate was still a member of the PDP at the time he contested the election. He therefore asked the court to dismiss Rhodes-Vivour petition as well as Sanwo-Olu’s reply to the petition for not having a secondary school leaving certificate and declare the PDP candidate the winner of the election.

Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Charles Edosonwan, asked the tribunal to dismiss all the petitions, saying that the election substantially complied with the Electoral Act and that the petitioners failed to prove their cases.