The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Thursday dismissed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s appeal seeking to disqualify Senator Adetokunbo Abiru of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from continuing to represent Lagos East Senatorial District.
A three-justice panel of the Court affirmed the March 1, 2021 decision of Justice Chukwuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court in Lagos dismissing Babatunde Gbadamosi and the PDP’s suit for lacking in merit.
Mr Abiru won the last December 5 senatorial bye-election by a landslide, polling 89,204 votes against his closest rival, Mr Gbadamosi, who polled 11,257 votes.
But he and the PDP challenged Mr Abiru’s eligibility to contest the election on the grounds of double voter registration, non-residency, non- indigeneship and violation of Section 31 of the Electoral Act.
The lower court, in dismissing their case, agreed with Mr Abiru’s counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) and APC’s counsel Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) that the issue of residency and indigeneship are not disqualifying factors under the Constitution.
Dissatisfied, Mr Gbadamosi and PDP approached the appellate court.
Delivering the unanimous judgment via Zoom, the presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Daniel Kallio, decided the appeal and another cross appeal in Mr Abiru and the APC’s favour.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) led other lawyers for the Appellants, while Wendy Kuku represented the 1st Respondent INEC.
Mr Pinheiro led other lawyers for the 2nd Respondent/ Cross-Appellant, Senator Abiru and Mr Owonikoko led other lawyers for the 3rd Respondent/Cross-Appellant – the APC.
The Court in its judgment agreed with Mr Pinheiro’s arguments and held that the appeal was unmeritorious.
In particular the Court of Appeal held that the residency of a candidate to an election is not a qualifying or disqualifying factor.
It held further that the 2nd Respondent (Mr Abiru) did not submit false information to INEC.
The Court also dismissed the arguments of the Appellants that the 2nd Respondent had irreconcilable names.
In resolving the Cross-Appeal, the Court held that the suit of the Appellants at the lower Court was speculative and premature and the lower Court ought to have dismissed same at the instance of the Preliminary Objection filed by the 2nd and 3rd Respondents.