Lagos, Nigeria – In a unanimous decision, the Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has upheld the victory of Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the duly elected governor in the March 18 election.
Justice Mikhail Abdullahi, who delivered the lead judgment, declared the petition filed by Olajide Adediran of the PDP as lacking in merit and “dead on arrival.”
The judgment read by Justice Mikail Abdullahi on behalf of the three-man panel on Monday, the tribunal held that the petition lacks merit, and the same is accordingly dismissed.
In reaching the verdict, the court first dwelt on the preliminary objections raised by the parties before considering the issues raised for determination.
The tribunal entertained the question of whether it had the competence and jurisdiction to hear the petition. Justice Abdullahi answered this question in the affirmative and held that this issue had already been resolved at the preliminary objection stage.
The second issue for the tribunal’s determination was whether Sanwo-Olu and his deputy Obafemi Hamzat were validly nominated by their party – All Progressives Congress (APC) – to contest the polls. The tribunal cited relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act and a plethora of decided cases to the effect that this was a pre-election issue that did not relate to the conduct of the polls being challenged.
In the final analysis, the tribunal held, “that the petition lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed.
“I affirm the election and return of Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu as the duly elected governor of Lagos state. Parties are to bear their cost.”
In delivering its judgment, the tribunal first dwelt on the preliminary objections filed by the parties. The tribunal reiterated its earlier judgment that the issue of nomination of candidates was a pre-election issue with jurisdiction on same vested in only the Federal High Court.
The tribunal therefore dismissed this ground of Rhodes-Vivour’s petition.
The judge further pointed out that the petitioner failed to meet the burden of proof required under the electoral act.
It also held that there were no sufficient facts put forward by the petitioner to support his ground that Sanwo-Olu’s election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Relying on the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in the petition of Peter Obi & 3 others, the court discountenanced the oral evidence of four subpoenaed witnesses called by the petitioner, Rhodes-Vivour in the instant case. The court noted that like the 10 subpoenaed witnesses of Obi before the presidential election court, these four witnesses also had no witness statements and were never listed at the time the petition was filed contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The tribunal however ruled in favour of the petitioner when it held that he had the locus to file the petition but noted that the petition survived on only one ground.
“Whether the 2nd & 3rd respondents were not jointly disqualified, when contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act, the 3rd respondent while still being a citizen of the United States of America and voluntarily renouncing his allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria allowed himself to be nominated as the deputy governorship candidate to the 2nd Respondent on the platform of the 4th Respondent, the APC…”
In its judgment on this issue, the tribunal held that there are a plethora of authorities that dual nationality by a Nigerian citizen by birth does not disentitle him from holding elective office and, this is a point that has been consistently
echoed by appellate courts in Nigeria.
The tribunal particularly took note of section 182 (1) (a) of the Constitution which was the foundation laid by the petitioners for the disqualification of the 3rd Respondent.
The said Section 182 (1) (a) reads thus:
“182.-(1) No person shall be qualified for election to the Governor of a State if-
Subject to the provisions of section 28 of this Constitution, he has voluntarily
acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, has made a declaration of allegiance to such country.”
The tribunal rejected the witness statement and evidence of a US Immigration lawyer, Mrs. Olubusayo Fasidi, on the ground that her testimony was misconceived.