Ogun Assembly Poll: A'Court nullifies Owodunni's election, declares Sobukanla as elected lawmaker - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Ogun Assembly Poll: A'Court nullifies Owodunni's election, declares Sobukanla as elected lawmaker

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Wednesday nullified the election of Babajide Owodunni of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as lawmaker representing Ikenne State Constituency, in the Ogun State House of Assembly.

The Court thereby declared Kunle Sobukanla of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the March 18 State Assembly election in Ikenne State Constituency.

The appellate Court in the appeal with suit number CA/1B/EP/SHA/OG/23/2023 Hon Olakunle Sobukanla & Anor v. INEC & 2 Ors., directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Sobukola Certificate of Return as the duly elected member representing Ikenne State Constituency in the State House of Assembly. 

In March 2023, INEC had declared Mr Babajide Owodunni as the winner of the election, despite the fact that on 6 March, 2023; 12 days before the election, Babajide Owodunni resigned from the PDP and withdrew from the contest in letters delivered to PDP and INEC. 

Mr Owodunni also went to Ogun State High Court, where he swore an affidavit of voluntary withdrawal from the race. 

When PDP received Mr Owodunni’s resignation and withdrawal notices, it wrote to INEC in an attempt to replace him, but INEC refused the replacement, and retained Owodunni as the recognised candidate, and then issued him a certificate of return. 

At the Tribunal, Owodunni said, he was kidnapped and forced to sign the withdrawal letters and affidavit.

Counsels to Sobukanla and APC confronted him with contrary evidence, showing that Owodunni freely campaigned for APC after withdrawing from the race. They also played a video in which Owodunni said: "As far as this Local Government is concerned, PDP does not have a candidate in Ikenne Local Government. I still remain the bonafide PDP candidate and I willingly withdrew my mandate that I no longer have any dealings with them”

With these crucial pieces of evidence, the Tribunal rejected Owodunni’s claim of duress and held that Owodunni truly withdrew from the race. 

However, the Tribunal refused to void Owodunni’s return by INEC on the ground that Owodunni withdrew less than 90 days to the election and such withdrawal was invalid. 

In the appeal, APC and Sobukanla argued that a withdrawal can be made at any time and that a withdrawal is complete once it was made in writing and delivered to the political party in question, irrespective of whether the political party informs INEC or not. 

APC and Sobukanla argued that the 90 days stipulated in the Electoral Act was just the deadline for a political party to replace a withdrawn candidate, but that there is no provision of the Act or legal principle that prevents a candidate from withdrawing less than 90 days to an election because withdrawal was complete the moment it was communicated to the party, stressing that the party has no role to play. 

They referred the Court of Appeal to the decision of the Supreme Court in PDP v.  INEC and the Presidential Election Petition Court in APM v. INEC both of which were decided this year on the alleged double nomination of Vice President Kashim Shettima. 

The Court of Appeal in a panel comprising of Hon Justice Theresa Ngolika Orji-Abadua, Hon. Justice Mohammed Baba Idris and Hon. Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari saw merit in these strong legal arguments and upheld them.

Consequently, the withdrawal of Mr Babajide Owodunni was upheld by the appellate Court while his declaration and return by INEC was set aside.

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