By Henry Ojelu
The National Assembly and State Houses Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja have affirmed the election of Senator Oluremi Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress (APC) for Lagos Central senatorial constituency.
The three-man tribunal led by Justice Kunaza Hamidu, in a seven-hour judgment delivered yesterday, held that the petition filed by Chief Adesunbo Onitiri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the election of Senator Oluremi Tinubu failed as it did not establish any prima facie case against her.
“The petition lacked merit and is hereby dismissed. The declaration of Senator Oluremi Tinubu by INEC as the winner of February 23 National Assembly election is hereby affirmed”, the tribunal declared.
The tribunal held that the petitioner failed to substantiate and give particulars of all allegations raised against the election of Senator Tinubu.
The tribunal declared that the National Assembly elections from which Senator Tinubu emerged winner was held following the electoral act and other relevant laws.
Chief Onitiri had dragged Senator Tinubu and INEC before the Tribunal, challenging the result of the Lagos Central Senatorial District election over alleged irregularities.
The APC and Independent National Election Commission (INEC) are second and third respondents respectively.
Chief Onitiri had alleged that INEC wrongly declared Senator Tinubu as the winner of the polls with 131,725 votes, while he was said to have scored 89,107 votes
He claimed that the INEC ought to have declared him (Onitiri), the winner of the election instead of Tinubu, claiming that he scored the highest lawful votes cast at the election.
In a petition filed before the tribunal on his behalf by his counsel, Onome Akpeneye, the PDP Senatorial Candidate for Lagos Central in the February 23 elections alleged that the results declared by the INEC was fraught with vote-buying, violence, over-voting, inducement of voters with monetary and material gains, campaigning and lobbying voters, on the day of election.
Other irregularities he stated in his petition, include non-accreditation and/or improper accreditation of voters by INEC officials, intimidation and arrest of his supporters and poll agents, as well as the instigation of electoral violence by the agents of the first respondent.
Chief Onitiri claimed that apart from the listed irregularities, there were irreconcilable entries in the result declared and the number of votes recorded in favour of Senator Tinubu by INEC in forms EC8A and EC8B respectively.
He also alleged non-use of accredited card readers in line with the 3rd respondent’s (INEC’s) guidelines and regulations for the conduct of the election.
“The final result was signed only by the agent of APC and the Senatorial INEC Returning officer in an unknown location,” he added.
But in their defense, Senator Tinubu, APC and INEC through their counsels, Ezekiel Ashade and Busayo Onabanjo respectively, debunked all the allegations contained in the petition describing them as unfounded fabrications.
They insisted that Tinubu scored the highest lawful votes cast at the election and urged the tribunal to dismiss Onitiri’s petition with substantial costs.
During the trial, Ashade filed two applications on behalf of Senator Tinubu and APC while Onabanjo filed one application for INEC in which they objected to certain paragraphs in the petition and urged the tribunal to strike them out as they were vague and lack substance.
The tribunal granted the prayer of the respondents and struck out the ‘offensive’ paragraph.