Lawyers have weighed in on the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos order of perpetual injunction barring the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from engaging the Chairman of Lagos State Parks Management Committee, Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo in the distribution of 2023 electoral materials across the 20 LGAs of Lagos State.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke who gave the judgement in a suit filed by Labour Party, its governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and others ( African Democratic Congress, Boot Party, and their governorship candidates, Funsho Doherty, and Wale Oluwo respectively), also restricted INEC from using its privies or any persons acting under its directions from contracting, partnering, or appointing any of MC Oluomo’s members and/or drivers in distributing materials in the state.
The applicants through their lawyer, Abass Ibrahim, had sought the following reliefs: “a declaration that the appointment, partnership, or contracting of Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee by INEC to distribute 2023 election materials and personnel in Lagos State violates Section 26 and 27 of the Electoral Act 2022 and consequently unlawful, null and void.
“A declaration that the appointment, partnership, or contracting of Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee (established by Governor Babajide SanwoOlu, the APC gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State) and any of its members and/or drivers by INEC to distribute election materials and personnels in Lagos State will give room for election sabotage, manipulation, and rigging in favour of the APC and consequently unlawful and illegal.
“A declaration that the appointment, partnership, or contracting of Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee or any of its members and/or drivers by INEC to distribute 2023 election materials and personnels in Lagos State is unlawful, wrongful, unjust and/or unreasonable and should be immediately stopped.
“An order setting aside any partnership, undertaking, contract and/or MOU of any form or nature executed by Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo, the Lagos State Parks Management Committee or any of its members and/or drivers with INEC to distribute election materials and personnels in Lagos State.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC and/or their privies or any persons acting under their directions from contracting, partnering of appointing Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo, Lagos State Parks Management Committee or any of its members and/or drivers to distribute 2023 election materials and personnels in Lagos State.”
The court had on Monday granted an interim order on the matter. In granting the order stopping Oluomo, Justice Aneke had ruled: “an order of interlocutory injunction filed by the Labour Party and five others restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (defendant/respondent), whether by itself or by its officers, affiliates, servants, privies or agents or any person acting or purporting to act for and on behalf howsoever from taking any steps or further steps whatsoever in furtherance of the engagement or appointment or consummating the appointment of Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee or any of its commercial bus drivers to distribute 2023 election materials and personnel in Lagos State pending the hearing and determination the substantive suit.”
Reacting on Tuesday, the Lagos Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Olusegun Agbaje, had said he was not aware of the lawsuit, adding that the electoral body had not been served.
He also insisted that INEC in the state will go on with its arrangement, which is working with owners of vehicles at the local government level.
“Nobody is dealing with Oluomo here. I said it several times. We are not dealing with Oluomo.
“The owners of the vehicles are at the local government level.
“Anybody who says we are dealing with Oluomo should provide the evidence. And we don’t have any problem with mobilisation in Lagos State.
“We don’t have any challenge at all in INEC Lagos State. All the arrangement is going on smoothly. We are not aware of any court judgment because nobody served us any court papers.
“The issue of Oluomo does not arise in the first instance. We are going on with our arrangement and we don’t have anything to fear,” Agbaje had said.
Giving his legal perspective on the Friday’s ruling, a lawyer and public affairs analyst, Bar. Joe Nwokedi, sided with the court, adding that it would be wrong to trust sensitive electoral materials in custody of someone who is partisan.
“For court to come up with that ruling, court knew the implication of using a partisan person – someone that is already supporting a particular candidate, made it so clear and so known, to be used for election, is very, very sad,” Nwokedi said.
“He has manifested biase by being a member of a political party and supporting a candidate openly , identifying openly, organising rallies. How do you trust sensitive materials in the custody of such a person?”
Nwokedi noted that if INEC should insist on engaging MC Oluomo, against the ruling of the court, “That will be creating atmosphere for chaos, and kind of crisis in the society – bridge of public peace. And it will be resisted. Because people will resist it.”
He explained that whatever becomes the outcome of any resistance as a result of INEC not obeying the court order, the electoral body would be held responsible.
Another lawyer, Monday Ubani, said that it will be illegal if INEC goes ahead to engage MC Oluomo, directly or through any of its privies.
“If they go ahead to engage those people, it is clearly illegal. And it may have some unfavorable consequence on the electoral outcome. Somebody can go to court to challenge anyone that emerges under that electoral system where people who were restrained were engaged in electoral process.
“It is a very difficult thing you know, because it will affect every person,” the former 2nd vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) told THE WHISTLER.
He, however, noted that the ruling is likely going to make it difficult for the electoral body to convey electoral materials across the state ahead of the elections.