LAGOS, Nigeria – Two separate appeals, filed by Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and his People’s Democratic Party counterpart,Olajide Adediran, (also known as Jandor) were on Wednesday dismissed by the State and National Assembly Appeal Court sitting in Lagos.
A three-member panel of the Appellate Court led by Justice Yargata Nimpar, affirmed the re-election Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the March 18 governorship election and upheld the decision of the election petition tribunal.
Their lordships held that the two appeals were lacking in merit.
Other members of the panel are Justice Samuel Bola and Justice Justice Paul Bassi.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday, March 18, 2023 conducted an election for the Office of the Governor of Lagos State.
At the conclusion of the poll, INEC declared and returned the incumbent Sanwo-Olu as winner, having scored 762,134 votes to defeat his closest rival Rhodes Vivour, who polled 312,329 votes. Adeniran was a distant third with 62,499 votes.
Dissatisfied, Rhodes Vivour and Adeniran filed separate petitions challenging the election result and INEC’s declaration.
Adediran and the PDP had claimed that at the time of the election, Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat, and LP candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour were not qualified to contest the election.
They also claimed that Sanwo-Olu failed to attach a copy of the GCE O/Level result he claimed to have sat for in 1981 along with his form EC9 as required by the Electoral Act 2022.
However, the Lagos Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on September 25, 2023, dismissed the two petitions filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Olajide Adediran and that of the Labour Party, and affirmed the election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.
Still not satisfied, Rhodes Vivour and Adeniran further appealed against the judgement of the Tribunal.
Delivering its judgments yesterday, Appeal Court was unanimous that the appellants failed to prove their claims.
Justice Nimpar, who read the lead judgment against Adeniran and the PDP held that Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr Hamzat, were qualified to contest the March 18, 2023, governorship election in the state under section 177 of the Constitution.
She held that the Appellants failed to prove that the 2nd & 3rd respondents were not jointly sponsored, adding that ‘the Appeal has hit the rock’.
The court held that the Appellant failed to prove the allegation of non-qualification of the Respondents without establishing any ground of non
qualification or disqualification known to law.
The court further held that the Appellants also failed to establish the allegation of non-compliance” with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, and did not present any quality of evidence required or demonstrating how such non-compliance, if any, substantially affected the outcome of the election.
On the Appeal filed by Rhodes Vivour and Labour Party, Justice Samuel Bola in his lead judgement agreed with the decision of the lower Tribunal and held that PW8, (Olubusayo Fasidi), a US immigration lawyer, did not qualify as an expert witness, and that all the exhibits (Exhibits P985-989 and PE 990 1033) tendered through her were inadmissible, being computer-generated evidence that did not have accompanying certificate of compliance pursuant to section 84 of the Evidence Act.
The Court agreed with the submission of the lead counsel to the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN that PW8 came to the Tribunal as a subpoenaed witness with a witness Statement on oath that was not front loaded alongside the petition.
On the allegation that the 3rd Respondent (Dr. Obafemi Hamzat) voluntarily renounced his citizenship of Nigeria and thereby violated section 182 (1a) of the Constitution, the court held that while the Appellant pleaded a specific Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, no such personal oath of allegiance sworn to by the 3rd Respondent was put in evidence before the lower Tribunal.
“The burden of proof in any case lies on the party who alleges. As it relates to the qualification or non qualification of a party, it is the law that a petitioner who alleges that the winner of an election was not qualified to contest the election has the static burden of establishing the facts constituting the non-qualification.
The Court held that the lower Tribunal took a holistic view of sections 28, 182 (1)(a) and 187 of the 1999 Constitution, and came to the inescapable conclusion that, in so far as a Nigerian citizen by birth retains his citizenship and does not renounce same in the manner prescribed by the Constitution, he is entitled to and not disqualified from contesting and holding elective office.
Consequently, the Court resolved all the issues in favour of the Respondents and against the Appellant and dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.