Lagos State Local Government Election Petitions Appeal Tribunal has upturned the judgment of the lower Election Petition Tribunal, which declared the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Babajide Obanikoro, as the winner of the 2011 chairmanship election in Obalende/Ikoyi Local Council Development Authority.
The Justice Opeyemi Oke-led five-man tribunal, in its judgment on Thursday, unanimously declared that the state’s Independent Electoral Commission had rightly returned the Action Congress of Nigeria and its candidate, Mr. Adewale Adeniji, as the winner of the election.
Obanikoro had on November 14, 2011 filed his petition at the LG Election Petitions Tribunal challenging the declaration of Adeniji as the winner of the election which was held on October 22, 2011.
The lower tribunal on October 4, 2012 in its judgment nullified Adeniji’s election and declared Obanikoro as the elected chairman.
However, the appellate tribunal held in its judgment that the failure of the lower tribunal to hear and determine Obanikoro’s petition within 30 days of filling it and not giving a specific order for extension of time had robbed it of its requisite jurisdiction.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Babajide Candide-Johnson, the tribunal dismissed Obanikoro’s petition, describing it as “incurably bad”.
It held that the failure of the lower tribunal to hear and determine the petition within 30 days contrary to provisions of Section 14 of the State’s Local Government Election Tribunal Law, had rendered the entire proceedings “a nullity”.
The appeal panel 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 lawyers’ decision as “an unpardonable blunder”, Candide-Johnson said the decision had no acceptable “explanation or justification”.
He said the lawyers “did not first accord priority to save the life of the election petition”.
A member of the panel, Justice Kazeem Alogba, said in his supporting judgment, that the lawyers’ mistake was “a fatal somersault”.
On her part, Oke said it was “a grave error”, adding that the provisions of Section 54 of the law was not “a decorative ornament” in the law book.
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 hear ACN’s preliminary objection to the petition first.