In the highly contested 2023 governorship election in Lagos State, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), has made a stunning claim against the deputy governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat. According to Rhodes-Vivour, Hamzat renounced his Nigerian citizenship upon acquiring a United States (US) passport. This explosive allegation was presented through an expert witness during the ongoing Lagos State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which is currently in session in the Ikeja area of the state.
The witness, Mrs. Olubusayo Fasidi, a self-proclaimed United States Immigration lawyer, testified before the tribunal, revealing crucial information about Hamzat’s alleged renunciation of Nigerian citizenship. Fasidi disclosed that Hamzat took an oath of allegiance to the US, effectively renouncing his Nigerian citizenship. The witness was presented by Dr. Olumide Ayeni (SAN), the counsel representing Rhodes-Vivour.
During the hearing, Fasidi presented the tribunal with documents that indicated Hamzat’s application for naturalization, specifically referencing Forms 8CFR/337 and N400. Dr. Ayeni tendered these documents to the three-man tribunal, led by Justice Arum Ashom. However, objections were raised by the counsel representing all the respondents, who reserved their reasons for objection until the submission of their final written addresses. The tribunal also consists of Justice Mikail Abdullahi and Justice L. P. Braimoh.
Paragraph 4: Under cross-examination by Eric Ogiegor, the lawyer representing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Fasidi admitted that individuals could enjoy dual citizenship. Nevertheless, she expressed her lack of awareness regarding the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution that pertain to dual citizenship. Fasidi clarified that she had been subpoenaed to explain US law, not the Nigerian constitution, before the tribunal.
Paragraph 5: Bode Olanipekun (SAN), the counsel to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat, sought to extract further details from Fasidi regarding the jurisdiction and date of Hamzat’s naturalization application. However, Fasidi invoked the protection provided by the Privacy Act of 1974 and declined to disclose this information. She firmly maintained that the details were safeguarded by the Act.
Paragraph 6: During the proceedings, Norris Quakers, the counsel representing the All Progressives Congress (APC), queried the witness about Hamzat’s disclosure of his American citizenship. Fasidi unequivocally confirmed that Hamzat had indeed disclosed his American citizenship.
Paragraph 7: As part of their argument, Dr. Ayeni presented result sheets from polling units in nine local government areas of the state. The intention was to demonstrate discrepancies between the recorded data on INEC’s Form EC 40A and the information gathered from these regions. The counsel representing INEC, Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat, and APC objected to the admissibility of Form EC 40A, reserving their reasons for objection until the submission of their final written addresses.
The tribunal adjourned the petition to June 26 for further hearing, as it seeks to carefully examine the evidence and arguments presented before reaching a final decision. The accusations made by Rhodes-Vivour against Deputy Governor Hamzat have added a new layer of complexity to the already contentious governorship election in Lagos State.