Patrick Kelechi, Lagos
DAILY COURIER – The Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has fixed Friday to rule on whether to strike out, at this preliminary stage, an application filed by the Labour Party’s (LP) candidate in the March 18 election, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, for being incompetent.
The chairman of the tribunal, Justice Arum Ashom, fixed the date after taking submissions from parties in the matter.
At the pre-hearing proceedings, Dr Olumide Ayeni (SAN), counsel to Rhodes-Vivour, sought the leave of the tribunal to argue two out of nine applications which he said are ripe for hearing. One of the applications is seeking two prayers including leave to file a list of additional witnesses while the second one is seeking consolidation of the Rhodes-Vivour’s petition with that of Olajide Adediran of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The petitioners’ counsel also told the tribunal that counsel representing Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr Muiz Banire (SAN) and Bode Olanipekun (SAN) have filed an application asking the tribunal to strike out and reject the petitioners’ application.
Dr Ayeni urged the tribunal to take all applications and their responses together so that all matters could be dealt with expeditiously.
But counsels to the respondents, in their various submissions, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition of the petitioner for being incompetent and for lack of jurisdiction.
Counsel to INEC, Dr Charles Edosomwan (SAN), has also told the tribunal that the electoral body filed a counter affidavit and written addresses in opposition to the two applications and written addresses filed by the petitioner.
“Our position is to discuss this petition on grounds that your Lordships have no jurisdiction to hear or entertain it,” he stated.
Dr Edosomwan further told the tribunal that INEC’s application for sundry prayers includes a pre-trial hearing and striking out of some paragraphs in the petition of the petitioner on the grounds that it raises weighty constitutional matters in which jurisdiction and competency lie elsewhere.
Dr. Banire in his submissions also informed the tribunal that the Governor and his Deputy filed applications in opposition to the motion for consolidation of applications by the petitioner.
He said that they have three pending applications, requesting the tribunal to strike out Rhodes-Vivour’s application on grounds of lack of competence and lack of jurisdiction.
He said the second application has four paragraphs seeking an order striking out all the averments and list of additional witnesses in the petitioner’s application.
Dr Banire said that their prayer was to ask the tribunal to halt the proceedings in the matter until petitioners ensure due compliance with the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.
Counsel to the APC, Norrison Quakers (SAN), also informed the tribunal that they have filed counter affidavits to all the applications filed by the petitioner along with supportive affidavits and written addresses.
He said the APC is also seeking leave of the tribunal to strike out some paragraphs in the petitioner’s applications before the tribunal.
Responding, Dr Ayeni said all applications are ripe for hearing except the one asking for leave to join additional witnesses.
He, however, drew the attention of the tribunal to the fact that one of the witnesses (Jandor) who the petitioner, Rhodes-Vivour, wanted to add was the candidate of the PDP in the March 18 elections.
After listening to all the submissions of the counsels, the tribunal chairman, Justice Arum Ashom, adjourned till Friday to deliver its ruling.
Rhodes-Vivour who scored 257,502 in the elections is seeking an order of the tribunal nullifying the election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy Dr Obafemi Hamzat on grounds that they were not qualified to contest the March 18 election.
He asked the Tribunal to disqualify the governor for “non-compliance” with the Electoral Act 2022 and the guidelines of INEC and to declare him the winner of the election.
Rhodes-Vivour also argued that the governor was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Gov. Sanwo-Olu, Dr Hamzat, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are 1st to 4th respondents in the petition.