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Lagos Governorship Tribunal Reserves Judgment Against Sanwo-Olu

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 head by Justice Arum Igyen Ashom, said he 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 Labour Party and that of the Peoples Democratic Party for lacking in merit and a mere academic exercise.

He argued that said the matter of non-qualification of the deputy governor as claimed by the Labour Party 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 addresses, 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. The purported oath of allegiance is of Mr Nobody. It’s omnibus.”

He further submitted that an election petition is different from an 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 the 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 the citizenship of the deputy governor was not duly proven by the petitioners.

He said, “Two issues were formulated. One is 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 US 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. 30pgs of their address was 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 US 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.”

For counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Clement Onwuenwunor
in his address 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 Labour Party candidate was still a member of the PDP at the time he contested the election and that the only candidate. He, therefore, asked the court to dismiss Rhodes-Vivour’s 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.

INEC counsel, 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.

Wahab Akinlade

Akinlade I. WAHAB is a dedicated journalist and the proprietor of I-WAHAB Media. He embarked on his career at Murhi International TV (MiTV) and subsequently joined Radio Nigeria as a Judicial Correspondent.With a profound interest in legal reporting, he currently holds the positions of Chairman at the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC), Ikeja Branch, and Chairman at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Radio Nigeria Chapel.As the owner of I-WAHAB Media, he has successfully established Top Court News, a platform renowned for providing comprehensive coverage of court cases and legal developments, with the aim of promoting transparency within the judicial system.Akinlade's diligent work and unwavering commitment to ethical reporting have earned him immense respect within the Nigerian journalism community.

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