Lagos State Governor, Babajide SanwoOlu and his Deputy, Obafemi Hazmat, have asked the Election Petition Tribunal to dismiss the request of the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, LP’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour for a leave to consolidate his petition with that of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP’s candidate, Olajide Adediran.
Bode Olaonipekun, SAN, Counsel to Messrs SanwoOlu and Hazmat, moved a motion on the issue before the Tribunal on Friday.
But, in response, Olagbade Benson, Counsel to Rhodes-Vivour, said his client’s request is backed by paragraph 50 of the first schedule under the rules of procedure, guiding election petitions.
He also noted that both petitions that were seeking to be consolidated emanated from the same election.
“We urge the Court to take a cue from the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, which consolidated all petitions before it.”
Other Counsels in the case urged the tribunal to dismiss the LP candidate’s application.
Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prince Ogiegor said the application was lacking in merit.
He added that the petitioner did not file any response to their counter-affidavit.
Counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Norrison Quakers, SAN, who is among the respondents, also said the petition being sought to be consolidated should have been attached to the petition as an exhibit.
The Labour Party’s candidate, through another Counsel, Idowu Benson, is also seeking a leave of the Tribunal to file an additional list of witnesses and their written statements on oath.
He believes the additional list of witnesses and their written statements on oath were provided for under Paragraph 14 (2) of the first schedule of the Electoral Act (2022).
But, INEC’s Counsel told the tribunal to dismiss the application, insisting, “The application is a tactical amendment to their petition and the time within which to amend it has expired. There’s also nothing to show the date when the written statement on oath of the petitioner was filed which are fundamental errors.”
Also, according to Mr Olaonipekun, “What is before you will be guided essentially by what is the applicable appellate precedent to follow. where there are two conflicting judgments, it is the latter in time that binds the lower court. The Supreme Court has now sealed the issue in APC vs Marafa which is the applicable precedent. Assuming your lordships had the power, it could only have been exercised if the petitioner sought a prayer for extension of time. They are out of time, they can’t validly seek to file additional witness’ statements, in proof of their petition outside the time provided in para 4(5) of the first schedule of the Rules guiding this tribunal.”
Mr Quakers, representing the APC, also said the petitioner was out of time in his application.
“Section 132 of the extant Election Act says a petition must be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the results of the elections, which cannot be extended. There must be an end to litigation.”
While adjourning to Saturday for further hearing, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Arum Igyen Ashom fixed June 5 to deliver the rulings.
Other members of the tribunal are Justice Mikail Abdullahi and Justice Igho Braimoh.
Mr Rhodes-Vivour is seeking an order of the tribunal nullifying the election of Governor Babajide SanwoOlu and his Deputy, Obafemi Hamzat on grounds that they were not qualified to contest the election.
He wants the Tribunal to disqualify the governor citing “non-compliance” with the Electoral Act, 2022 and the guidelines of INEC and to declare him winner of the election.
The LP candidate is also arguing that the governor was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.
Messrs SanwoOlu, Rhodes-Vivour and Adediran of the APC, LP and PDP had scored 718,595; 257,502 and 59,172 respectively in the March 18 governorship election.