The Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lagos has sacked Labour Party’s Olukayode Doherty representing Amuwo-Odofin II Constituency in the State House of Assembly.
The tribunal rather declared Rauf Olawale Sulaiman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the poll held on March 18.
The tribunal, while delivering judgment, directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to present Sulaiman with the certificate of return as the winner of the election.
According to the tribunal, the Electoral Act 2022 does not allow a candidate to be declared winner if the candidate did not fully participate in the election process.
The court held that the Labour Party candidate (LP), Olukayode Doherty, did not appear on the ballot, noting that Tunde Fashina, who appeared on the ballot and got the majority of votes, was not qualified to contest.
The APC candidate had filed the petition against INEC, Labour Party, Tunde Fashina and Olukayode David Doherty as the first to fourth respondents respectively.
The three-man panel, headed by Justice Ashu Ewah, held that Doherty did not appear on the ballot and that the LP candidate, Fashina, who appeared on the ballot and got the majority votes was not qualified to contest.
Justices Abdullahi Ozegya and M. A. Sambo therefore declared INEC’s presentation of certificate of return to Doherty null and void.
The tribunal, in its unanimous decision, overturned the INEC result after considering the evidence presented by the petitioners and the respondents.
The tribunal held that the petitioners filed to disqualify Fashina for not presenting the minimum academic qualification to contest the office, and also that his candidacy was not sponsored by the LP, and he did not win the number of majority votes in the polls held on March 18, 2023.
The tribunal ruled that the second and third respondents, LP and Fashina, failed to provide an academic certificate to prove the LP candidate met the minimum academic requirement of a First School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent.
The tribunal ruled that, “It is determined that all the votes recorded for the second and third respondents in House of Assembly, Amuwo-Odofin Constituency II election, are wasted votes, invalid and void on the grounds of the non-qualification to participate in the election.”
The tribunal struck out the APC and Sulaiman’s ground of petition that the LP and its supported candidate, Doherty, did not win the highest number of votes for not sufficiently proving the claim.
The petitioner’s counsel, Mr James Ogunyemi, had presented 22 witnesses during trial and in his final written address raised five issues for determination before the tribunal but respondents called four witnesses.
Ogunyemi prayed the tribunal to determine whether Fashina was qualified to contest, having not participated in all the sections of the election before March 18 polls.
The petitioner also argued that INEC gave the certificate of return to another LP member, Doherty, who did not participate in the election.
The tribunal held that, “The Electoral Act 2022 does not allow for a candidate to be declared winner if the candidate did not fully participate in the election process. ”
According to the tribunal, the counsel to the second respondent told the court that the LP made a decision to swap Fashina with Doherty in accordance with the “judgment in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2115/2022 and the decision of the Court of Appeal in Suit No. A/ABJ/CV/253/2022.”
The tribunal said it disagreed with the second respondent, as the Appeal Court decision it cited did not authorise for a swap or replacement of candidates, but directed the first respondent, INEC, to open its website and allow political parties to submit their candidates for the purpose of the general election.