Why Court dismissed Akinlade’s petition, upheld Abiodun’s election as governor

The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Ogun State on Saturday dismissed the petition filed against Governor Dapo Abiodun’s election in the March 9 governorship poll.
In the petition marked EPT/OG/GOV/01/19, filed by the Allied People’s Movement candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, and his party, the petitioner had alleged lack of qualification and over voting against Abiodun.
The petitioner also alleged that Abiodun’s Form CF00, submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, contained false information, adding that the electoral body aided his qualification through the form.
According to the petitioner, the alleged false information was fundamental to Abiodun’s qualification to contest the election.
In the judgment which lasted about six hours, the Chairman of the three-man panel,  Justice Yusuf Halilu, struck out Akinlade’s petition, saying the “petition is destined to fail, fails and is hereby dismissed.”
The tribunal said the petition was not proven and it was incorrect to contend that Abiodun, who is the second respondent in the petition, was not duly elected for the position of governor of the state.
The panel described the argument canvassed by Akinlade’s counsel and the evidences given by the petitioner’s witnesses during the hearing as “lazy, shallow and deficient.”
On the allegation of over-voting, the panel held that out of over 1,000 polling units where illegalities and irregularities were alleged, the petitioner only called 34 polling agents to testify before the tribunal.
It said the “the scanty and insufficient” witnesses called by the petitioner showed that an irredeemable damage had been done to the petition.
The tribunal further held that the petitioner’s witnesses failed to tender smart card reports and voter’s register to justify the alleged irregularities at polling units.
“The petitioner failed woefully to prove that the respondent did not score the majority of lawful votes cast and we so hold. This petition is destined to fail, it failed and it is hereby dismissed,” Justice Halilu declared.
Earlier, the panel had quashed the issues while delivering its rulings on two preliminary objections.
In determining the issue, the panel in a unanimous ruling, held that the matter was a pre-election matter which ought to have been challenged within 14 days after the Form CF001 had been submitted to INEC.
The panel agreed with the respondent’s counsel that the preliminary objection was statute-barred and thereby dismissed it.
It also held that the matter had been put to rest by the Appeal Court, hence the tribunal was bound by the judgment.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Abiodun, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, had polled 241,670 votes to emerge winner as against Akinlade who scored 222,153 votes.
Counsel to the petitioner, Isiaka Olagunju, told journalists that they would study the judgment and liaise with Akinlade on whether or not to appeal.
In his reaction, Abiodun described the judgment as the “triumph of the rule of law and victory for democracy”.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, shortly after the judgment, he said he remained magnanimous in victory, while calling on the opposition to join hands with him to move the state forward.
The governor thanked the judiciary for the painstaking efforts and fair judgment, which, he said, had further strengthened the nation’s democracy.