Lagos election tribunal: Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat request dismissal of Rhodes-Vivour’s petition

Lagos election tribunal: Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat request dismissal of Rhodes-Vivour’s petition

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Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat have asked the Lagos State Governorship Election Tribunal, to dismiss the petition filed by the Governorship Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour for lack of evidence to prove his claims.

In a 43-page final written address filed July 22, Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat asked the 3 man tribunal to also note the petitioner’s lack of seriousness for the petition as he neither filed a witness statement nor appear personally to prove his own case.

The APC in its response to the petition of Rhodes-Vivour also submitted that no evidence had been put before the Justice Arum Ashom panel to sway its mind that the votes cast for Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu were not lawful or that the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the relevant laws.

In the March 18 governorship elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC declared Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat winners after having scored 762, 134, the majority of lawful votes cast across all polling units, wards and local governments in Lagos state and having also satisfied the constitutional geographical spread requirement.

The petitioner, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour scored 312,329, to place second in the polls, a figure that is less than half of the votes scored by the declared winners and about 27 percent of the total number of valid votes at the elections.

He subsequently approached the court on April 9 to challenge the outcome of the elections on what Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat describe as “sundry trumped up grounds” including alleged non-qualification and alleged corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.

In facts put before the Tribunal, the respondents said, “The petitioner called nine witnesses in relation to the ground of non-compliance spanning 20 local governments and over 13,000 polling units in Lagos and one subpoenaed pseudo expert witness for the ground of non-qualification. In all, the petitioner called only one polling unit agent who had to be compelled to give evidence by subpoena.

“To show the non-participation of the Labour Party in this petition, the petitioner had to apply for a subpoena to be issued on PW 9 who gave evidence as the party secretary and stated that he did not attend the tribunal to give evidence voluntarily and would not have attended proceedings but for the subpoena.”

Through their lawyers, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), leading Adesegun Ajibola (SAN), Muiz Banire (SAN), Bode Olanipekun (SAN), Said Sanusi (SAN) and seven others, Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat formulated one sole issue for the determination of the Tribunal, vis:

“Considering the evidence led at the trial of this petition vis-a-viz constitutional and statutory provisions regarding assumption and occupation of the office of Governor of Lagos State, whether this petition presents any valid justification to alter/upturn the return made by INEC at the election of the office of Governor of Lagos State held on 18th March, 2023.”

 

In their arguments on this sole issue, they contended that “since the reliefs sought in an election petition are declaratory in nature, it will amount to reiterating the obvious that the quantum and quality of evidence must be of such a gradient that will be sufficiently compelling to impel a tribunal to displace the presumption of regularity because declaratory reliefs cannot be granted on the strength of mere admission by an adversary and such admission does not excuse a petitioner from satisfying/discharging the enormous burden of proof. “

 

Rhodes-Vivour in his petition had asked the Tribunal to nullify the return of Sanwo-Olu and declare him the winner of the election being the candidate with the second-highest number of lawful votes cast.

 

Sanwo-Olu and his deputy in their final written address asked the Tribunal to note that of all the 10 witnesses called by the petitioner, none of them in their evidence or elsewhere requested for this relief or any other reliefs made by Rhodes-Vivour, a situation which demonstrates “the abandonment of the reliefs”.

Hamzat said, “Having inundated the Tribunal with a petition of 184 pages, the petitioner failed to bring evidence to ventilate the expansive petition, assuming without conceding that it contained prolific or cogent grounds qua complaints. Since the tribunal cannot go on a frolic to extract evidence or engage in self-inquisitorial examination of dumped documents, the option legitimately open to the Tribunal is to enter a deserving order of dismissal.

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