The Election Petition Tribunal has announced Rauf Olawale Sulaiman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Amuwo-Odofin II Constituency election that took place on March 18, 2023.
During the judgment delivery at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), the tribunal court issued an order to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide Sulaiman with the certificate of return as the rightful victor of the election.
In its ruling, the court emphasized that the Electoral Act of 2022 stipulates that a candidate cannot be declared the winner if they did not fully participate in the election process.
The court pointed out that the Labour Party candidate (LP), Olukayode Doherty, who was issued a certificate by INEC, did not appear on the ballot.
Furthermore, it noted that Tunde Fashina, who did appear on the ballot and received the majority of votes, was not qualified to compete.
The petitioner, the APC candidate, had filed the petition against INEC, Labour Party, Tunde Fashina, and Olukayode David Doherty as the first to fourth respondents, respectively.
INEC had initially presented the certificate of return for the Amuwo-Odofin Constituency II to the fourth respondent, Doherty.
In their judgment, the three-member panel, led by Justice Ashu Ewah, ruled that Doherty did not appear on the ballot, and the LP candidate, Fashina, who did, was not qualified to run.
Justices Abdullahi Ozegya and M. A. Sambo, also members of the tribunal, declared INEC’s presentation of the certificate of return to Doherty as null and void.
The tribunal, in a unanimous decision, overturned INEC’s result after carefully considering the evidence presented by both the petitioners and the respondents.
The tribunal’s verdict stated that the petitioners had successfully proven that Fashina lacked the minimum academic qualification to contest the office and that his candidacy was not endorsed by the LP.
Additionally, he did not secure the majority of votes in the polls held on March 18, 2023.
The tribunal determined that the LP and Fashina, the second and third respondents, failed to provide an academic certificate confirming that the LP candidate met the minimum academic requirement of a First School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent.
Consequently, it ruled that “all the votes recorded for the second and third respondents in the House of Assembly, Amuwo-Odofin Constituency II election are wasted votes, invalid and void on the grounds of non-qualification to participate in the election.”
However, the tribunal dismissed the APC and Sulaiman’s petition grounds that the LP and its supported candidate, Doherty, did not secure the highest number of votes, as these claims were not sufficiently substantiated.
During the trial, the petitioner’s counsel, Mr. James Ogunyemi, presented 22 witnesses and raised five issues for determination before the tribunal.
The respondents called four witnesses in response.
Ogunyemi requested the tribunal to determine whether Fashina was qualified to run, given his incomplete participation in all sections of the election before the March 18 polls.
The petitioner also argued that INEC had awarded the certificate of return to another LP member, Doherty, who did not partake in the election.
The tribunal ruled that the LP, the second respondent, admitted that the fourth respondent, Doherty, did not participate in the elections and indeed fielded the third respondent, Fashina. Therefore, no further evidence was needed.
The tribunal concluded that the “Electoral Act 2022 does not allow for a candidate to be declared the winner if the candidate did not fully participate in the election process.”
According to the tribunal, the counsel for the second respondent cited a decision from the Appeal Court but disagreed with it, as it did not authorize a swap or replacement of candidates.
Instead, it directed INEC to open its website for political parties to submit their candidates for the general election.