The Ogun State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta on Friday struck out the petition by the Labour Party 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 Five Hundred Thousand Naira 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, the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, declared that “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 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 Dapo 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 its counsel failed 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.”