Hearing has formally commenced in the petition filed by the Lagos State governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the March 18 election, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, challenging the return of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Although the petitioner was absent on Wednesday, his lead counsel, Olumide Ayeni, SAN, called four witnesses in proof of his clients petition.
The first witness, Mr. Obinna Nwokesi, described himself as the Supervisor/Ward Chair of Ilupeju Industrial Estate (Ward 14) in Mushin Local Government.
Led in evidence in-chief by the counsel, the witness identified his statement on oath made on April 9 and urged the tribunal to accept it as his evidence in the petition. The document was subsequently tendered and admitted in evidence by the Tribunal.
Under cross-examination from counsel to INEC, Charles Edosomwan, SAN, the witness admitted that he was not a polling agent but said he supervised the polling agents in the 23 units of the ward. He also admitted that he was not a collation officer at the ward level.
He specifically said, “I personally observed disturbances in polling unit 04, 05 and 16, but I didn’t observe in the rest of the 20 because I could not have been everywhere myself.”
The witness in his statement had also written, “Voters were beaten or intimidated from voting. The members of the APC unleashed violence and fear on the people which led to them being unable to cast their votes. Members of the APC were allowed to vote twice without going through accreditation…”
When asked if INEC was a part of the violence, the witness answered no. He also reiterated that he could not be everywhere and his testimony covered reports of agents who reported to him.
Under cross-examination by counsel to the Governor of Lagos and his deputy, Bode Olanipekun, SAN, the witness admitted that he wrote his statement himself.
In paragraph 5(e) of his statement, the witness had written, “The results were not uploaded via the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which is a critical tool for ensuring the transparency and credibility of the electoral process”.
When asked by the governor’s lawyer to tell the court the full meaning of BVAS, the witness said he did not know.
Olanipekun: What name did you put on your witness statement?
Witness: IIW which stands for Ilupeju Industrial Ward.
Olanipekun’: How many signatures do you have?
Olanipekun: Did you wear any tag on election date?
Witness: Yes. It’s INEC’s tag for party agents and ward supervisors. I wore a tag for supervisor which gave me the right to patrol all 23 polling units.
Olanipekun: Where did you vote?
Witness: I was to vote at Esther Osiyemi.
Olanipekun: Apart from LP agents who had official tags, did your party allow any of its members to carry any mark to show they were LP supporters on Election Day?
Witness: Not at all
Olanipekun: Did you see other political parties carry any marks?
Witness: I saw just one party, APC, carrying dresses, caps…all over the 23 polling units.
Under cross-examination from counsel to the APC, Norrison Quakers, SAN, the witness admitted that he was not accredited by INEC but insisted that his supervisor tag allowed him to go round all the polling units.
He also claimed that he was beaten by APC thugs in polling unit 04 and 05 which were close to each other.
When asked to show in his witness statement where he testified that he was beaten, the witness admitted that he did not write that down.
Quakers: “You also did not say in your statement on oath, the events that transpired in polling unit 04, 05 and 16, am I correct?
Witness: You are correct.
The witness was discharged at this point and a second witness, Adeyemi Joseph was called. Led by counsel to the petitioner, he also identified his statement on oath and urged the Tribunal to accept it as his evidence in the petition.
Attempts by the counsel to tender certified copies of the results of all 50 polling units in Kayode/Fadeyi (Ward 7) in Mushin Local Government where the witness swore that he oversaw all activities in all the 50 polling units were rejected by the respondents.
The respondents took their time to count the documents and noted that it was 49 and not 50. Among other things, they stated that the discrepancy in the figure attacks the credibility of the witness and they all objected to the admissibility of the documents and reserved further reasons for their objections till their final address.
Despite the objections, the tribunal admitted the documents in evidence as exhibits. The tribunal also admitted another set of 25 pages of pink-coloured documents said to represent Certified True Copies (CTCs) of collated results.
Under cross-examination from counsel to INEC, Edosomwan, the witness admitted that he was neither a polling agent or a collation officer.
Witness: Yes and I was not a polling agent.
Edosomwan: An INEC officer was the collation officer and not you?
Edosomwan: Look at the registrar of the court. Is she Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo?
Witness: I don’t know.
Edosomwan: You can’t know, it’s not written on the forehead. Do you seriously allege that in all the 50 polling units, only APC members were allowed to vote twice?
Witness: Yes, I was in all the polling units and I observed same. I saw it with my physical eyes.
Edosomwan: I put it to you that it’s not possible, that you could not have been everywhere?
Witness: I know it’s not possible but I have polling agents.
Edosomwan: The uploading of results happened in polling units?
Witness: Yes and I’m not a polling agent.
Edosomwan: The only way you could have known is what the agents told you?
Witness: Yes, but I have video evidence from all polling units.
Edosomwan: Was INEC part of the people who beat up voters?
Witness: They didn’t beat up people but they collected money. I was told about some and I witnessed some with my physical eyes.
Edosomwan: Where is the report you made to the police about people being beaten up or paid?
Witness: I don’t have any report here.
When Bode Olanipekun took over the cross-examination, he asked the witness, “How many APC members voted twice?”
Witness: I can’t remember
Olanipekun: How many non-Yoruba people are in this courtroom?
Witness: I don’t know.
Olanipekun: If somebody says there were 83 polling units in Kayode/Fadeyi ward, will you say that person is a liar or not?
Witness: The person is lying.
In his statement on oath, the witness had indeed written 50 polling units in one paragraph and subsequently wrote 83 in another.
Olanipekun: In paragraph five of your statement, you said you resumed at your duty post at 6:05 am. Where was your duty post? Or did you resume at all 50 polling units?
Witness: My duty post was my polling unit but I supervised all the polling agents.
Olanipekun: Look at paragraph three, you said you have the authority of the petitioners? Who are those petitioners?
Witness: The thugs of the APC.
The response prompted an uproar in the courtroom.
Olanipekun: Let’s do a random sampling. Give him the documents from the polling unit, Forms A1, A2, A3. Give him Form A30 which is in the middle, and Form A49, which is at the end. Can you see the signatures of LP agents on all those forms?
Witness: Yes, sir.
Under cross-examination from APC counsel, Quakers, the witness was also shown some of the documents earlier admitted in evidence.
Quakers: But is there an LP agent’s signature on it?
Witness: Yes, at the bottom.
Quakers: Show him Exhibit A50-A74. Is there any part of the document which you tendered that you signed?
Under re-examination, counsel to Rhodes-Vivour reminded the witness that he had earlier been told to look at the registrar of the court and say whether she is Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo.
The counsel further asked the witness if he had seen the registrar of the court before that day. The line of questioning did not go down well with the other parties, who insisted that there was no ambiguity in the question asked which needed clarification.
The tribunal agreed with them in its ruling. The tribunal also listened to the evidence of two more witnesses, bringing to four the number of witnesses that testified on the first day of hearing.
Further hearing was adjourned till tomorrow, Thursday, June 15th
In his 271-page petition filed before the Tribunal on April 9, Rhodes-Vivour, who is the sole petitioner, says Sanwo-Olu was wrongfully returned as the election was vitiated by substantial non-compliance with the mandatory statutory requirements and irregularities that inimically substantially affected the elections in some polling wards, wards and local government areas.
The petitioner also said that the failure of INEC to comply with the mandatory provisions of the Electoral Act 2020, the Manual of Election Officials 2023 and the Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of Elections 2022 impugns irredeemably the integrity of the Lagos Governorship elections of March 18, 2023.
Rhodes-Vivour listed three grounds on which his petition is based. He alleged that Gov. Sanwo-Olu was not qualified to contest the election, was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast and the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Constitution.
In facts put to support his petition, GRV also says that the deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat, contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2020 while still being a citizen of USA and by denouncing his allegiance to Nigeria allowed himself to be nominated as the deputy governorship candidate.
The petitioner contends that by reason of the disqualification of both men, all votes recorded for them and the APC are wasted and he is therefore entitled to be declared the winner of the election being the candidate with the second highest number of lawful votes cast.
Rhodes-Vivour says that at the hearing of the petition, he shall also contend that at the conclusion of elections at each polling unit, the presiding officer was mandatorily required to electronically transmit the results directly to the collation system of INEC as well as to use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of the form EC8A to the INEC IReV’s portal in real time. He said the failure to do this gave room for manipulation of the said results by INEC officials as there were over 151 mutilated and thoroughly altered results in violation of the Electoral Act INEC’s regulations.
The petitioner also stated that in areas like Alimosho, Ikorodu, Mushin, Surulere, Amuwo-Odofin, Apapa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, Lekki etc, INEC officials colluded with the Gov, his deputy and the APC to mischievously suppress the lawful results by physically assaulting his supporters and preventing them from voting. He says the APC and it’s candidates also employed diabolical means including but not limited to Oniru of Iru land performing “oro” to prevent female and non-Yoruba voters from lawfully casting their votes.
With a long list of specific places detailing incidents of voter threats, suppression, disenfranchisement, violence & irregularities, the LP candidate says he will rely on videos, relevant INEC forms, the evidence of experts including forensic examiners, statisticians, data analyst/researcher, information technologist, computer analysts and several other persons & documents in proof of his petition.
Over 20 lawyers are listed to represent the petitioner.