The Lagos State Governorship election tribunal sitting in Ikeja yesterday struck out the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the April 11 governorship election, Jimi Agbaje, against governor Akinwunmi Ambode of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the ground of incompetence.
The three-man panel headed by Justice Muhammad Surajo, in an unanimous ruling over a preliminary objection filed by Ambode, held that the petition failed to comply with the mandatory provisions of the Electoral Act.
Agbaje had petitioned the tribunal challenging the declaration of Ambode as the winner of the April 11 governorship election in the state.
But in a preliminary objection by Ambode through his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the governor contended that 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 hand.
He further said that there was nowhere in the pleadings where the petitioners attacked the victory of the respondents or questioned the conduct of the election.
Olanipekun said: “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 could not act on sentiment and sympathy of parties, emphasising that sympathy cannot override clear provisions of the law.
In its ruling, the panel pointed out that Jimi Agbaje did not ask for a fresh election despite asking the court to nullify the election.
The panel also held that, “In the instant petition, apart from 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,”
“It is for this reason that the grounds of the petition that survived up till this point can no longer be countenanced. In the circumstance 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 preliminary application has merit and is hereby granted as prayed. This petition is struck out for being incompetent.”
Apart from Olanipekun, the lawyer to the APC, Dr Muiz Banire who had also raised objection to the petition, described the petition as having no ground and therefore should be struck out.
But in his reply, lawyer to Agbaje, Clement Onwuenwunor, maintained that the petition was competent and that the issues for determination by the tribunal had been carefully spelt out.
Ambode Hails Tribunal Ruling
Meanwhile, Ambode has described the verdict of tribunal affirming his victory at the polls as a welcome development and a clear confirmation of the mandate given to him by the people.
Tribunal ruling, miscarriage of Justice – PDP
But the PDP in Lagos has condemned the verdict of the tribunal which struck out its petition against Ambode, describing it as a miscarriage of justice and and vowed to appeal against the ruling .