The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, has lost his bid to unseat Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Election Petition Tribunal in Ikeja yesterday dismissed his petition.
The three-man panel, led by Justice Muhammad Sirajo, unanimously held that the petition was incompetent.
In his petition, Agbaje alleged irregularities in the April 11 election, which he said breached the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s) approved guidelines.
But ruling on the preliminary application by Ambode’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, the panel said the petitioner did not ask for a fresh election, despite asking the court to nullify the April 11 election.
Justice Sirajo said: “In the instant petition, besides seeking an order nullifying the election of the second respondent, the petitioner did not ask for an order of fresh election.
“So, if for instance, the election is nullified, the people of Lagos State would be left in an anarchy situation as no order can validly be made for the conduct of fresh election, same having not been sought for.
“A petition that is found on disqualification of a respondent and an order of nullification of the election must of necessity contain a prayer for an order of fresh election.
“Where such a prayer is lacking, the petition will be incompetent and academic as even the resolution of such a petition in favour of the petitioner will not confer any utilitarian value on the petitioner(s)
“Where no relief for fresh election is claimed in a petition, a ground of petition founded on Section 138(1)(b) of the Electoral Act and the entire petition itself are incompetent and liable to be struck out.”
In striking out the petition, the Chairman, who read the verdict, said: “ It is for this reason that the grounds of the petition that survived up till this point can no longer be countenanced.
“Paragraph 13(b) and 14 of the petition and reliefs 19(5) and 19(8) are hereby struck out in view of the want of the relief seeking for the conduct of fresh election. Having done so, the petition becomes bare and empty.
“In the final analysis and in consideration of our foregoing decisions on all the issues raised in this application, we hold that the application has merit and is hereby granted as prayed. This petition is struck out for being incompetent.”
Moving a preliminary objection to the petition, Olanipekun argued that the petition should be struck out for being incompetent.
According to him, there was no correlation between the reliefs being sought by the petitioner and the particulars of application on one hand and the grounds for questioning the election on the other.
“The grounds and particulars in the petition are at opposites with the facts and reliefs being sought within the purview of Section 285(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
“I urge my lordships to dismiss the petition,” Olanipekun said.
He further submitted that there was nowhere in the pleadings where the petitioners attacked the victory of the respondents or questioned the conduct of the election.
Olanipekun added: “I submit that there is no petition before your lordships known to law.
“There are no grounds challenging the election of my client under Section 138(b)(c) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.”
According to him, the court cannot act on sentiment and sympathy of parties.
He emphasised that sympathy does not override clear provisions of the law.
APC’s counsel Muiz Banire aligned with Olanipekun’s submissions.
“This is a groundless petition. There is no petition before Your lordships. I pray that the purported document before Your lordships be struck out,” Banire said.
Agbaje’s counsel Clement Onwuenwunor opposed their submissions and maintained that the petition was competent.
He had argued that the issues for determination by the tribunal had been carefully spelt out.
Onwuenwunor urged the tribunal to dismiss the notices of preliminary objection with substantial costs in favour of the petitioner.
However, ruling on the issue, the tribunal upheld the preliminary objection raised by Olanipekun and Banire.
Reacting to the judgment, Olanipekun said: “We have come to the end of the proceeding.
“The tribunal agreed that the petition is incompetent. The court also agreed that the petition did not meet the tribunal’s requirement.
“The petition has to be based on the Electoral Act and the constitution.”
Ambode described the confirmation of his victory as a welcome development.
He said it was a reaffirmation of the mandate given to him by the people.
The governor said: “I am elated at the ruling of the tribunal, which is an affirmation of my victory at the polls.
“On April 11, the people spoke with their votes about continuity and that is what the tribunal has just reaffirmed.
“The task ahead requires concerted efforts from everyone. I urge my opponents to put the election struggles behind them and in the spirit of sportsmanship join hands with me to take Lagos to the next level.”
The governor added: “It was needless in the first place for the PDP to have petitioned the election, which was adjudged to be free, fair and credible.
“Now that the right thing has been done, we should come together above partisanship and move the state forward”
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, has said the verdict was a further confirmation that the people voted for Ambode and the APC.
Obasa said: “We are happy with the verdict and it is a proof of the legality of our governor and APC’s victory during the election.
“Lagosians have always aligned with the progressives hence the results of the last elections in the state should not have generated any contention.”