The Ogun State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, on Friday, struck out the petition by the Labour Party (LP) challenging the victory of Governor Dapo Abiodun.
The Labour party had gone to the tribunal to challenge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for alleged unlawful exclusion of the party’s candidate from contesting during the last governorship election in the state.
The tribunal also awarded a N500,000 compensatory fine against the Labour Party, to be paid to Governor Abiodun. The tribunal predicated its judgement on the absence of the petitioner in court and neither was it represented by any counsel.
Reacting to the news, Governor Abiodun, declared: ”The people spoke with their votes on March 9 and today the tribunal confirmed it. That is democracy at work. So, I believe that puts an end to the petition and we pray that the petition will rest in perfect peace. Now, we expect all political parties and other purpose-driven stakeholders to join hands with us to build our future together.”
Speaking with newsmen after the judgement, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), the lead counsel to Governor Abiodun, said the petitioner had based “their argument for nonappearance on a letter written to the Court of Appeal asking for the case to be transferred, which was rejected by the Tribunal.”
Osipitan had prayed the court to dismiss the petition due to the absence of the petitioner as enshrined in the nation’s law, that, when a petitioner and his counsel fail to appear in court, such a petition should be dismissed, which was later agreed upon by the tribunal.
He said: “We joined issues with them, that, they have no candidates, so to say, or that the nominations of the candidate were not lawful and, therefore, INEC was right in not listing their candidates for the election. But after we had filed all our papers, today (Friday) was fixed for the hearing, for the case to commence. Neither the petitioner, that is, the candidate of the party, nor their counsel was in court.
”They predicated their absence on a letter they wrote to the president of the court of appeal, asking for the case to be transferred. We felt that is not a reason why they should not be in court at all, that even if they have any issues, they should come to court and say it out loud and clear.
”At any rate, we looked at the provisions of the law that say that when a case is fixed for hearing and the petitioner is not in court, then we as respondents are entitled to judgement dismissing the case and once it is dismissed, there is no room for it to be re-listed.
”So we invoked that provision and applied to the tribunal that the petition be dismissed for want of diligent persecution because they were absent in court.”
Meanwhile, the Ogun State Chapter of the APC has described the decision of the state’s Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, dismissing the petition filed by the Labour Party as a welcome development.
The party’s caretaker committee’s Publicity Secretary, Tunde Oladunjoye, in a press statement, released in Abeokuta, on Friday, described the decision of the tribunal as a “welcome development,” stressing that LP’s inability to prosecute its petition is “not unexpected.”
”It is expected because the rag-tag party who could not even fill candidates for half of the elective positions at the last elections, deliberately waited till after the elections to resort to blackmail, arm twisting and other undemocratic tactics. We all know in Ogun State that LP is a shaky platform that springs up in each election year to extort gullible politicians and rabble-rouse.
”We commend the courageous decision of the tribunal, which was in tandem with Section 46 (3) of the First Schedule to the provision of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), which entitled the respondent to final judgement for failure of the petitioner to attend the tribunal for the hearing of the petition,” the party said.
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