An Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Lagos, Friday, dismissed the petition by Segun Adewale of the Peoples Democratic Party challenging the election of Solomon Adeola of the All Progressives Congress on March 28th.
Mr. Adeola, popularly known as “Yayi”, polled 429,765 votes to defeat his closest opponent, Mr. Adewale, also known as “Aeroland” who got 372,421.
The three-person tribunal, led by Sylvester Orji, said that Mr. Adewale and the PDP, the petitioners, failed to show any burden of proof that the election did not comply with the Electoral Act.
“From the evidence laid before us in this petition, we have come to the conclusion that the petitioners have failed to show any burden of proof that the respondents failed to comply with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended,” the tribunal stated.
“The petitioners have failed to use relevant evidence to question the election in Lagos West Senatorial District, and therefore, all the reliefs sought failed.”
The tribunal also awarded a cost of N20, 000 against the PDP.
In two other petitions filed by the PDP challenging elections in Lagos Mainland constituency 2 and Lagos Island constituency 2, the tribunal resolved the issues against the petitioners.
The victories of the APC’s Olanrewaju Oshun and Shakirudeen Giwa, representing Mainland Constituency 2 and Island Constituency 2 respectively, were upheld against their challengers from the PDP, Ibrahim Ajiga and Oluwanishola Lateef.
The capacity filled courtroom erupted into cheers from APC supporters after the tribunal rose from their sitting.
Standing on one leg
In their petition challenging the APC’s victory in Lagos West Senatorial District, Mr. Adewale and the PDP had argued that Mr. Adeola was not validly nominated by his party to contest the election.
They also argued that Mr. Adeola was not duly elected by majority of lawful and valid votes, adding that elections conducted in specific wards in Ikeja, Alimosho, Agege, Ifako-Ijaiye, and Mushin local government areas were invalid due to corrupt practices.
The petitioners said 91,641 votes from the five local government areas ought to be deducted from the APC candidates’ tally.
The tribunal held that while Mr. Adewale stated that he polled the highest number of votes in the election, he failed to state the scores of the other contestants.
“We hold that the failure of the petitioners to state the scores of the candidates is fatal to the petition, but we decided to hear it on its merits,” said the tribunal.
“We have not seen where the PW1 (Mr. Adewale) tried to explain the discrepancy in the two sets of scores. PW1 said some of the card readers where pre-loaded but he did not state which of the polling units where the card-readers were pre-loaded.
While Mr. Adewale was the petitioners’ only witness, the respondents – Mr. Adeola, the APC, and the Independent National Electoral Commission – did not call any witness.
The tribunal said that Mr. Adewale’s testimony was “devoid of any meaning.”
“Our view is that there is no evidence to show that the first respondent (Mr. Adeola) was not duly elected or nominated by the second respondent (APC).
“The law is trite that submissions by counsel cannot take the place of evidence.
The tribunal criticized the petitioners for hammering on the failure of the respondents to call any evidence during the hearing.
“It appears to us that the petitioners failed to appreciate the decision of the respondents not to call any evidence,” the tribunal said.
“PW1 only accredited and voted in his unit. He did not know what happened outside his polling unit except from phone calls from his field agents.
“It is not difficult to see that the respondents had perceived that the petitioners’ case was standing on one leg.”
The tribunal further stated that the petitioners’ merely alleged of irregularities during the election but did not state how they affected the outcome of the election.
In the petitions challenging the Lagos Assembly elections in Lagos Mainland Constituency 2 and Lagos Island Constituency 2, the PDP said that the primaries were held on a day less than the period required by the Electoral Act.
On 19th September, 2014, the APC notified the INEC of its intention to hold its House of Assembly primaries on 18th November.
But on 5th November, the APC wrote to INEC notifying them of the cancellation of their primaries. On 18th November, the party notified INEC of the new date for their primaries, on 1st December, 2014.
The PDP argued that the period between 18th November and 1st December was less than the time frame stipulated in the Electoral Act.
“A cursory look of the 18th November letter showed that it was not the main notice,” the tribunal said.
“It is not correct to state that 19 September and 18th November are independent of each other.
“We agree that by virtue of the letter dated 19 September, the respondents notified INEC of its intention. The fact remains that the letter dated 18th November cannot be divorced from the letter dated 19th September.
“In so far as the period is between 19th September and 1st December, the date of the primary complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act.”