LAGOS – The All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the October 31 Lagos East Senatorial by-election, Tokunbo Abiru, may be having a smooth campaign. Although he is enjoying massive backings from his supporters, he may end up dealing with litigations capable of scuttling his chances.
This may not be unconnected to a recent statement credited to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), calling for the disqualification of Abiru in the forthcoming election over what the PDP termed “voter fraud”.
It would be recalled that Adetokunbo Pearse, Media Director to the PDP candidate for the election, Babatunde Gbadamosi, in a statement titled “Why Adetokunbo Mukail Abiru must be disqualified from the 31st October 2020 Lagos East Senatorial race”, accused the APC candidate of possessing two Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs)
SUNDAY INDEPENDENT learnt that the Lagos State chapter of the PDP and its candidate for the by-election, Gbadamosi, had last month sued Abiru before a Federal High Court in Lagos asking for the disqualification of the APC candidate on at least two counts.
Gbadamosi and the PDP had alleged that “Mr. Abiru has two Permanent Voter Cards (PVC number: 90F5BO5EEB295604194 and PVC number: 90F5AFEA90418213518)
“Mr. Abiru is not registered to vote in the East Senatorial District. Our evidence for the first case against Mr. Abiru can be verified from the Voters Register as it exists on INEC server.
“For the second case against Abiru, we refer to his letter of 14th August, 2020 to INEC, requesting a transfer of his address from Road A2 HSE Ago, Carlton Gate Estate, off Chevron Drive, Lekki Lagos, to 38 Oriwu Road, Ita Elewa, Ikorodu Lagos. Mr. Abiru’s request was not granted, because as INEC explained to him, ‘Continuous Voter Registration Exercise is presently suspended.’
“Clearly, therefore, based on case number 1, Mr. Abiru is guilty of identity fraud. With two PVCs, it is reasonable to assume that Mr Abiru is one of those people who vote multiple times on election day.
“Based on case number 2, it is clear that Mr. Abiru cannot vote in the October 31st Lagos East Senatorial Election. According to the constitution, a citizen who cannot vote, cannot be voted for.”
The PDP, however, in its statement, alleged that, “The Lagos State APC, true to its disregard for the rule of law and disrespect for Lagosians, has classified the PDP case against its embattled candidate for Senate as ‘false and laughable’.
“Firstly, there is nothing false about the case. Court records will show that indeed, on 29th September, 2020, the PDP and its Senatorial Candidate, Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi, dragged Abiru, his party, APC and INEC to court.
“However, the PDP in its recent statement, maintained that the case against Abiru is water tight, insisting that there is nothing false about its case against the APC candidate.
“Court records will show that indeed, on 29th September 2020, the PDP and its Senatorial Candidate, Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi, dragged Abiru, his party, APC and INEC to court,” the statement read in part.
The PDP further alleged that, “His sponsor, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, did not do his due diligence. He imposed Abiru on the members of his party, and wants to impose him on the people of Lagos East (Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu, Kosofe, Somolu).
“The practice of forcing bad candidates on the electorate with impunity by callous leaders like Tinubu failed last month in Edo State. It will fail in Ondo State on 10th October, and it will fail in Lagos at the Lagos East Senatorial election. Abiru is not marketable.
“His reputation is that of a rogue banker. Skye Bank collapsed under his leadership. Today, Polaris Bank customers and shareholders are accusing him of fraud.
His customers at the bank have convicted him of financial misconduct in the court of Public Opinion. This month, when he appears in court, the court of judicial opinion will certainly indict him of voter fraud.
“Mr. Gbadamosi has no such negatives. He is a successful businessman with a passion to improve the quality of life for the people of Lagos. He is intelligent and resourceful. Gbadamosi emerged candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in a democratic election. He will be the people’s Senator, not a Senator accountable to some ailing godfathers on Bourdillon Road,” Pearse added.
In a stern reaction, Abiru through his lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), disclosed his plan to file a N1 billion suit against Pearse for alleged defamation.
Abiru also asked PDP’s media director to retract all defamatory publications against his person within seven days or face legal proceedings for failing to do as demanded.
He gave these conditions in a letter of claims his counsel wrote to the media director of the PDP Senatorial Campaign Council, faulting the statements credited to him on the points of law.
In the letter of claims dated October 4 by his counsel, Abiru said that Pearse’s allegations amounted to a very serious case of libel, which he said, had caused him considerable distress and embarrassment.
The letter, which failed to address the issue of double PVCs registration, added that all the allegations made against Abiru “are false to your knowledge and your attack on him was unjustified, malicious and callous.
“In demonstration of factual inaccuracy in your allegations, there is no criminal charge pending against, or a conviction of, our client on the allegation of financial impropriety in the bank or voter fraud.
“If indeed Skye Bank Plc collapsed under his leadership, which is false, we wonder how come he was retained by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the Chief Executive Officer of the Polaris Bank Limited.”
Disturbed by these unfounded claims, his legal counsel is demanding that the PDP’s media director retract all defamatory claims against Abiru and tender an apology to be approved by him (legal counsel).
The letter said: “We have also advised our client that he is entitled to substantial compensation for the injury of his reputation and feelings in respect of which we invite your proposal. Our clients also demand from you all the legal costs he has incurred so far on this matter.
“If we do not receive a satisfactory reply within seven days of receipt of this letter, our instructions are to commence legal proceedings against your persons, without further recourse to you, wherein our client shall claim against you.
“The claims are as follows damages, including exemplary damages, in the sum of N1, 000,000,000.00 for libel contained in your defamatory publication; injunction restraining further publication in any manner related to the similar words defamatory of our client and an order directing you to retract or cause to be retracted the said defamatory words in the same form adopted in your publication,” Abiru said in a letter by his counsel.
Also, the APC in its defence of its candidate, denied the allegation of double registration, maintaining that its candidate has not engaged in double registration.
Seye Oladejo, Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the APC, said the allegation of double registration was not only false, but laughable.
According to Oladejo, “Our attention has been drawn to an online report by an unknown blog, alleging that a suit has been instituted challenging the eligibility of our candidate to contest for the Lagos East Senatorial By-election on account of a purported double registration as a voter.
“The allegation as contained in that report is not only false, but we find it laughable. It is apparent that the Plaintiffs have not availed themselves the original copy of the Electoral Act 2010 (As amended).
“We understand their panic, fear and unease on account of the overwhelming and calamitous defeat that awaits them on October 31. They should do well to ask the traducers of Willie Obiano (of Anambra State) and Yahaya Bello (of Kogi State) and avail themselves of several other court decisions in that respect.
“Let them continue to chase shadows while we remain focused as we campaign and gather support in the nooks and crannies of the Lagos East Constituency.
“We assure our teaming supporters and the entire electorate that our candidate’s eligibility is unassailable and by God’s grace he will emerge victorious at the election come October 31.”
Though INEC had severally said it had no power to disqualify candidates alleged to have been involved in double registration, but that has only been in the case of governorship candidates who are covered by immunity.
Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, had last year, responded to the case of the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, who was accused of engaging in double registration.
Yakubu had said double registration was not an offence under the Electoral Act. He also added that the commission could not prosecute Bello, who was then seeking a second term in office, because he enjoyed constitutional immunity.
“On the issue of double registration, there is nothing INEC can do with someone who has constitutional immunity. The governor in question has a guaranteed constitutional immunity.
“We disciplined our staff that were involved because it is within our reach to take administrative action against them. Moreover, the Electoral Act does not permit us to disqualify anyone based on the account of double registration. This is our handicap.”
Whether the same will be applicable to a Senatorial candidate is yet to be decided. But, the opposition PDP will have to wait for the decision of the Federal High Court.
Read the Source post on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.