Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour’s Petition Lacks Substance And Credibility, APC Files Final Written Address

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said that the petition filed by Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the Lagos State Governorship Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), as lacking in substance and credibility.

In its comprehensive 36-page final written address to the Lagos Governorship Election Tribunal, the APC responded to Rhodes-Vivour’s petition by stating that no compelling evidence had been presented to sway the three-man panel that the votes cast for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu were unlawful or that the election did not comply substantially with the relevant laws.

Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, unsatisfied with the outcome of the March 18 governorship elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), filed a 271-page petition on April 9th, challenging the victory of Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat.

The petitioner’s three grounds for the petition were centered around his claim that both Governor Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, were not qualified to contest the election.

Rhodes-Vivour argued that Hamzat violated the provisions of the Electoral Act 2020 by allowing himself to be nominated while still holding US citizenship and after renouncing his allegiance to Nigeria.

Based on these grounds, Rhodes-Vivour contended that all votes cast for the disqualified candidates and the APC should be considered null and void, and he should be declared the winner of the election, as he had the second-highest number of lawful votes.

In response to the petition, the APC filed a reply on May 2nd, challenging the facts presented by the petitioner and questioning the competence of the petition.

During the trial, Rhodes-Vivour called a total of 10 witnesses, including ward leaders, coordinators, and others. The petitioner also submitted over 20,000 documents, including certified true copies of various INEC forms and judgments.

The APC, on the other hand, called only one witness and submitted its relevant documents.

In its final written address, filed on July 21st by the legal team led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Abiodun Owonikoko, the APC summarized the evidence presented by the petitioner. The party argued that the testimonies of six of the petitioner’s witnesses lacked credibility, as they were not polling unit agents and their accounts were based on hearsay from their agents. Additionally, the party noted that the petitioner had only called a few polling agents, mainly from distant polling stations.

Regarding the testimony of a subpoenaed witness, an immigration attorney residing in the US, concerning the alleged dual citizenship of the deputy governor, the APC pointed out that she lacked authority from any relevant US government department and did not provide concrete evidence to support her claims.

Referring to relevant provisions of the law and past court decisions, the APC asserted that dual citizenship does not disqualify a Nigerian by birth from contesting elections. The party also argued that the petitioner misinterpreted Section 29 of the constitution, as no evidence was presented to prove that Hamzat had applied to the President to renounce his Nigerian citizenship or that such an act would automatically bar him from running for public office in Nigeria.

The APC also said that Clause 14 of the latest issued American Passport, provides that a citizen of America is entitled to enjoy all the rights and privileges of the country of his birth anytime he is outside the USA.

On the issue of the incomplete form EC9 of Obafemi Hamzat, the party said this was outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal being a pre-election complaint about a form submitted to INEC as far back as July 2022.

On whether the declaration and return of the Governor was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and whether this electoral infraction or non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election, the APC submitted that the facts pleaded range “from spurious allegations that the results of elections were not instantly uploaded to IREV, to non-release of CTC of election documents, to suppression of petitioner’s supporters, to over voting, violence and voter intimidation and finally to the outlandish allegations of disruptions of the voting exercising, beating up and chasing away voters”, BUT no shred of evidence was adduced in all of this regard.

The APC says it is clear from it submissions that the petition was brought to the Tribunal “dead on arrival”, as the petitioner failed woefully to prove any of the grounds.

On the relief sought by the Petitioner for INEC to conduct a fresh election at which SanwoOlu, Hamzat and the APC would not be allowed to participate, the
party submitted that the Petitioner did not show by any evidence how many votes he scored at the election not to talk of demonstrating that he had the required spread of 25% of the total number of lawful votes cast, in at least two-thirds of the Local Government Areas of Lagos State.

The party reiterated that the results declared by INEC enjoy a presumption of regularity, and Rhodes-Vivour failed to lead credible evidence to revoke this presumption. The APC, therefore, urged the Tribunal to dismiss the Petition with substantial cost awarded in its favour.