Symbol of justice
The Lagos State Election Petitions Appeal Tribunal sitting at Igbosere, has declared Mr. Adewale Adeniji of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the winner of Ikoyi/Obalende Local Council Development Area (LCDA) election.
The tribunal set aside the judgment of lower tribunal that declared Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Babajide Obanikoro, the winner of the said election.
The PDP and Obanikoro had dragged LASIEC, the ACN and its candidate, Adewale Adeniji, to the Lagos State Local Government Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Ikeja, asking the tribunal to upturn the election result that LASIEC declared in favour of the ACN candidate, claiming that the results were not collated at the ward and local government.
Obanikoro had also claimed that he won the election after collating the results from the LASIEC’s Forms 9A, issued at each polling unit but were not used by LASIEC in declaring the result and from the available evidence.
The tribunal had held that Obanikoro scored the highest number of valid vote (3,770), while Adeniji of the ACN, scored 3,248 votes and that the tribunal therefore nullified Adeniji’s election and ordered the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to revoke the Certificate of Return issued to him.
A five-man panel tribunal headed by Justice Opeyemi Oke, in its judgment yesterday held that the lower tribunal had failed to hear and decide on Obanikoro's petition within 30 days, which is contrary to the provisions of Section 14 of the state’s Local Government Election Tribunal Law, and it rendered the entire proceedings “a nullity.”
Candide-Johnson also blamed the lower tribunal led by Justice Dolapo Akinsaya (retd.) for refusing to look into its record and accord priority to Obanikoro's application for extension of time but preferred to take CAN’s preliminary objection to the petition first.
The panel, however, blamed Obanikoro’s lawyers led by Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) for their decision to withdraw their application filed on the strength of Section 54 of the LGETL, seeking 60 days extension of the petition’s life span, describing the lawyer’s mistake as "unpardonable error."
He said the lawyers “did not first accorded priority to save the life of the election petition.”
However, Justice Oke said the error committed by Obanikoro’s lawyer was an avoidable one as the provisions of Section 54 of the law is not “a decorative ornament” in the law book.
On that grounds, the tribunal said: “The judgment delivered on October 4, 2012 declaring Obanikoro as the validly elected chairman of Obalende/Ikoyi Local Council Development Area is hereby set aside, ordering LASIEC to issue a certificate of return to Adewale Adeniji of the ACN as the duly elected chairman of the local council development area.
Reacting to the judgment, Obanikoro said: “I am very sad with the judgment because it is not what we expected. This is not good for our democracy. It will encourage thuggery and rigging in the coming elections.
“In the first place, Justice Adeyinka betrayed the law. The law said count and collate result where the election was held. So, what this judgment is saying is that what he did was okay and that he should continue to do it.”
Also, Bolonho Obanikoro, said: “Well, the judgment wasn’t in our favour unexpectedly. Judgment has been delivered and there is no other court we can go to. But we are disappointed because the election was won by PDP.
Condemning the judgment, he said: “It is just unfortunate that the court of law where people are supposed to get there mandate, has been taken over by corrupt people and it is not good for our democracy. If a court of law can seat down and rob people of their mandate. I think the judges have done us a very huge disservice because the people of Ikoyi/Obalenda actually want a change and they elected somebody to effect that change and yet they have been imposed with somebody they did not vote for.”
Similarly, in a statement, Lagos State PDP described the judgment that overturned Obanikoro’s victory as miscarriage of justice done deliberately to satisfy the ruling ACN in the state.
The party said: “We will report the five judges to the NJC, especially as they have deliberately misapplied the Law to satisfy their paymaster. ACN has thus exposed itself as pseudo democrats who should not be allowed to jettison our nascent democracy with their now apparent desperation to hold onto the illegal contraptions called LCDA,” adding: “The judgment is provocative and capable of aggravating the already tensed polity in the state.”