A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday gave an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from engaging Mr Musiliu Akinsanya a.k.a. 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.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke made the order sequel to a motion filed and argued by counsel to Labour Party Abass Arisekola Ibrahim in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/271/2023.
Applicants in the suit are Labour Party, its Lagos State governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-vivour, African Democratic Congress, its Lagos State governorship candidate, Funsho Doherty, and Boot Party and its governorship candidate Wale Oluwo.
Only INEC was listed as the defendant in the suit.
In urging the court for the interim order, the applicant’s counsel, Abass Arisekola Ibrahim, who moved the application with an affidavit of urgency, is brought pursuant to section 13(3) of the Federal High Court Act (CAP Laws Of The Federation Of Nigeria 2004; Order 26 Rules 8 and 9, Order 28 Rule 1(2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009, and under the court’s inherent jurisdiction.
He also told the court the grounds for orders sought are that his clients who are plaintiffs/applicants will be severely threatened to a free and fair election in Lagos State.
The counsel also stated that damages would not be an adequate remedy and that the balance of convenience is in favour of his clients. Adding that “It is in the interest of justice to restrain the INEC from taking any step or further steps that may foist a fait acompli on the honour respect of the substantive suit”.
Justice Aneke after listening to the counsel’s submission held that: “I have listened to the submission of counsel and also perused the motion with an affidavit of urgency and grounds for the application. I found merit in the application. The order of interlocutory injunction is hereby granted.”
Upon granting the interim order, the applicants’ counsel pleaded with the court for the abridgement of time to hear the substantive suit, because of the time of the elections.
Justice Aneke hop hearing the counsel plea granted the application for abridgement of time and adjourned the hearing of the substantive suit to February 22, while ordering that all the processes in the suit be served on the INEC.
The judge also ordered that a hearing notice be issued and served on the INEC.
The three political parties and their governorship candidates, in the affidavit in support of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction deposed to by their lawyer, averred that the Lagos State Government in April 2022 (less than one year to this election) set up a committee known as the Lagos State Parks Management Committee to oversee the affairs of all commercial bus drivers, motor parks and garages in the State, at the same time abolishing the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the state. And that prior to April 2022, NURTW was the major controller and manager of Lagos State commercial bus drivers, garages and motor parks.
The deponent stated that upon establishment of the Lagos State Parks Management Committee, Governor Babajide SanwoOlu, the incumbent and Gubernatorial Candidate of the APC appointed a popular thug, Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo who is a strong supporter of the APC, the APC Gubernatorial Candidate in Lagos and APC Presidential Candidate in Nigeria as the Chairman of the committee, showing his support for APC, its Gubernatorial and Presidential Candidates.
He stated that he is aware that on 12 January 2023, the Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee wrote to the defendant to offer logistics solutions in the distribution of election materials and personnel in Lagos State. The letter was received by the Defendant on 16 January 2023. Shown to me and marked Exhibit 2 is the said letter dated 12 January 2023. And that it was reported in the national dailies that the defendant has appointed the Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee to distribute election materials and personnel in Lagos.
The deponent stated that on Tuesday 7 February 2023, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje the INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, confirmed during the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting at INEC that they had no choice but to work the MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee.
He stated further that he knows that Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo is a card-carrying member of APC, a strong supporter of the APC presidential candidate, as well as the APC Gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State. And that MC Oluomo has been quoted saying that: “I am an Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Jagaban loyalist, I wear the Jagaban jersey, I’ve been a loyalist since 1999, the first Mecca i went is through his excellency in the year 2000, more so, he has done a lot for me, he made me who i am today our relationship has been very cordial and strong in the area that | grew up in…” A copy of AIT online news report is shown to me and marked Exhibit 6.
He said he verily believes that the followership of commercial bus drivers (whom the Defendant has entered a contract with to distribute election materials) to MC Oluomo is cultlike and he has a way of influencing or enforcing compliance amongst the drivers. And that MC Oluomo and the many of the drivers being contracted by the Defendant recently organized a solidarity rally to show their support for the APC presidential and Gubernatorial candidates.
He stated that he has read Section 26 and 27 of the Electoral Act 2022, and 1 know that contracting MC Oluomo and his drivers to distribute election materials, after their open support and loyalty for a candidate should not be allowed.
In the alternative, the deponent stated that UBER and other car hiring services have more drivers and cars than the MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee. And that Lagos State has now turned to a logistics hub, where logistics companies are springing up in thousands daily. Hence, Defendant has many options in Lagos than in other states in terms of distribution of election materials.
He averred that he verily believes that by virtue of Sections 26 and 27 of the Electoral Act 2022, the appointment, partnership or engagement of the MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee and his drivers is unlawful. And that other Presidential candidates and civil society groups have warned the INEC from associating with the MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee but all fell on deaf ears.
| know that only the Honourable Court can mandate the Defendant to ensure strict compliance with Sections 26 and 27 of the Electoral Act 2022. Shown to me and marked Exhibit 8 is an online report of the Cable dated 9 February 2023.
He averred that “it is in the interest of justice that the Court should order the set aside any such MOU or contract between the INEC and the MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee and his drivers as same will only lead to election sabotage and manipulations. And that INEC should be ordered to disengage with the MC Oluomo-led Lagos State Parks Management Committee and his drivers.
He stated that damages would not be an adequate remedy for the loss that would be suffered by the applicants and the entire good people of Lagos State if the INEC is not restrained. And that INEC is not financially capable of adequately compensating the applicants and the entire good people of Lagos State if the election materials are tempered with an election sabotaged.
He stated that the applicants are willing and able to give an undertaking as to damages and hereby does give the undertaking as to damages in the event that the order sought ought not to be granted. And that it will be in the interest of justice that the Court grants the reliefs sought by the applicants, in order to protect the Applicants and the sanctity of the coming elections.