The Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has dismissed the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Olajide Adediran (Jandor), challenging the re-election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The tribunal also struck off the joinder between Jandor and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party (LP).
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Arum Ashom, announced that the court would deliver its judgment in the case of the PDP and its candidate before issuing its judgment in the petition of the Labour Party’s governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour.
In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Mikail Abdullahi on behalf of the three-member panel on Monday, the Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal determined that the petition brought by the PDP and its gubernatorial candidate, Adediran, lacked merit.
The first argument brought forward was whether the third respondent, Obafemi Hamzat, Deputy Governor of Lagos, should be considered a distinct candidate from the second respondent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Additionally, the tribunal decided whether the deputy governor could be included as a respondent in the case.
On the joinder, citing a series of previous rulings, the panel agreed that a petition should be filed between the winner and loser of an election, not between two individuals who both lost.
Consequently, the tribunal upheld the preliminary objection and subsequently removed the name of the 5th respondent, Rhodes-Vivour, from Jandor’s petition. Furthermore, the tribunal eliminated all exhibits presented in evidence by Rhodes-Vivour in Jandor’s petition from its records.
The panel also clarified that Rhodes-Vivour would not be able to appeal any aspect of the Jandor’s petition judgment later, or he would be regarded as an unwarranted intervenor.
Similarly, the Tribunal determined that the 6th respondent, the Labour Party, should not have been included as a respondent in Jandor and the PDP’s case.
The party’s name was subsequently removed for being improperly joined, and all evidence and exhibits related to the party were also expunged from the tribunal’s records.
The tribunal held that it dismissed the preliminary objection raised by the petitioner because they failed to adhere to the regulations outlined in the Electoral Act, which necessitate the deposit of security as a cost requirement.
On the second matter, which focused on whether Governor Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, received valid nominations from their party, the APC, to participate in the elections, the tribunal held that it’s a pre-election matter.
The tribunal reached this conclusion referencing relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, as well as previous legal precedents. It held that the matter is unrelated to the conduct of the contested polls.
Furthermore, the tribunal determined that the petitioners were not affiliated with the 4th respondent, the APC, and therefore lacked the legal standing to challenge the party’s primary elections that selected both candidates.
Regarding the allegation of a forged certificate presented by Governor Sanwo-Olu, the tribunal took note of several factors, including the petitioner, Jandor’s testimony stating that Sanwo-Olu did not attend Community Grammar School, Ijebu-Ife, the institution from which the certificate originated. Notably, the petitioner also mentioned that the school’s principal was still alive.
The tribunal raised questions about why the petitioner did not summon the school’s principal or any staff members as witnesses to testify regarding the authenticity of the certificate.
The tribunal therefore held, “that the petition lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed.
However, the tribunal’s (pre-election matter) ruling on the second issue, which has to do with the APC’s primary election, has added a fresh stale to the series of inconsistencies following election tribunal judgments in Nigeria.
In May, A Federal High Court sitting in Kano nullified the candidature of Abia State governor-elect, Dr. Alex Otti, and other candidates who ran for electoral office under the Labour Party in both Abia and Kano states.
The annulment was based on the argument that the Labour Party failed to submit the names of its members in the 35 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in both hard and soft copies to INEC, 30 days before the primaries as stipulated by the Electoral Act.
Lawyers who criticized the judgment said it is a pre-election matter, and under the Electoral Act, 2022, only an aspirant who actually participated in the primaries can challenge the candidate of any party.