Monday, September 23, 2019 9:50 pm
The Lagos State Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Ikeja has again dismissed the petition challenging the victory of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 gubernatorial polls.
The petition was filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD). But in dismissing it, the tribunal reaffirmed Sanwo-Olu as the duly elected governor of Lagos State.
The judgment on Monday, which lasted for over three hours, said that the AD and its gubernatorial candidate, Chief Owolabi Salis, failed to prove the allegations of electoral irregularities in their petition.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that on June 17, the tribunal had dismissed petitions by Salis and Ifagbemi Awamaridi of the Labour Party (LP) on grounds of abandonment and failing to file an application for pre-hearing conference within seven days as prescribed by law.
The AD, LP and their gubernatorial candidates, filed an appeal and the Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos had on Aug. 6, ordered the tribunal, sitting in Ikeja to resume hearing on the petitions filed by the two candidates.
A five-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Hussein Mukthar, upturned the decision of the tribunal holding that the tribunal had failed to check its own record of proceedings before giving the verdict.
Earlier on Monday, the three-man panel led by Justice T. T. Asua had dismissed a petition filed by LP and Mr Ifagbemi Awamaridi, its gubernatorial candidate, challenging Sanwo-Olu’s victory.
While reading a portion of the judgment dismissing AD’s petition, Justice A. M. Anka, said the witness statement on oath of Salis, who was the first petitioner’s witness (PW1) was inadmissible as evidence.
The judge noted that Salis, while testifying at the tribunal, said he had signed his statement on oath in the law chamber of his Counsel Mr Bola Aidi, contravening the provisions of the Notary Public Act.
“The statement on oath of Owolabi Salis is hereby inadmissible and is hereby struck out,” he said.
Dismissing the petition, the judge described it as having “jumbled grounds”.
“The petition is hereby dismissed as lacking in its entirety and I make no order as to costs,” Anka ruled.
Mirroring the judgment delivered earlier, which had dismissed LP’s suit, the tribunal held that the petitioners did not also provide evidence at the tribunal that Sanwo-Olu was of unsound mental health.
The tribunal also noted that there was no newspaper publication of the world media conference of former Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode, alleging Sanwo-Olu’s unsound mind and also no medical evidence from the Gbagada General Hospital were presented as evidence at the tribunal.
Following the judgment, Aidi, Counsel to AD and Salis, said that the respondents would consider appealing the case.
“We have come to the end of the road. I commend the court on the time spent on the judgment. We are open to appeal,” said Aidi.
Reacting to the judgment, Mr Victor Okpara, Counsel to the APC, said: “I will like to register my appreciation. The lead judgment is insightful. I will leave this tribunal more enriched. Journey mercies to the bar and bench.”
Mr Tunde Falola, Counsel to Sanwo-Olu, also applauded the court on the time spent on the judgment.
NAN reports that INEC, Sanwo-Olu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the INEC resident electoral commissioner were listed as respondents to the petitions.
Other respondents were the returning officer for the Lagos State governorship election, the commissioner of police and the Nigerian Army.
The petitioners had challenged Sanwo-Olu’s victory on grounds of being mentally incompetent to run as a gubernatorial candidate in the election.
The petitioners had also claimed that the March 9 polls was marred by violence, voting irregularities and that Sanwo-Olu could not vote or be voted for as he had no valid voter’s card.