Tribunal dismisses AD, LP petitions challenging Lagos governor’s election

The Lagos State Gubernatorial Election Petitions Tribunal sitting at Ikeja, Lagos on Monday dismissed petitions filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the Labour Party (LP) challenging the victory of Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 polls.

The tribunal’s chairman, Justice T.T. Asua, in a ruling, dismissed the petitions due to the failure of the petitioners to file applications for pre-hearing conference after the close of pleadings within seven days as prescribed by the law.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sanwo-Olu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner were listed as respondents in the petitions.

Other respondents were the Returning Officer for The Lagos State Governorship Election, the Commissioner of Police and the Army.

The three-man panel noted that timely application for a pre-hearing conference was a condition to the hearing of the petitions.

It held that without the application for pre-hearing conferences, the petition cannot begin or get to the stage of judgment.

The panel also held that Section 285(4) of the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution was inapplicable because of the timely application for a pre-hearing conference was a precondition in election petition matters.

According to Justice Asua, the inability of the petitioners to serve any of the respondents was not an excuse and the consequence of failure to apply timely for pre-hearing conference amounted to a dismissal of such a petition.

Responding to the decision of the tribunal, counsel to the petitioners, Mr. Bola Aidi, thanked the tribunal for a well-considered ruling.

Sanwo-Olu’s counsel, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), had in a motion filed on May 22, raised an objection based on Paragraph 18(1)(4) of the Electoral Act.

Owonikoko argued out that the AD and LP had not filed applications hearings for a pre-trial conference within seven-days after the close of pleadings.

In his response dated May 26, Aidi had said Section 285(8) of the Fourth Alteration of the 1999 Constitution does not permit any electoral petition to be terminated at the interlocutory stages.

AD and LP gubernatorial candidates, Chief Owolabi Salis and Prof. Ifagbemi Awamaridi, had in their petitions challenged Sanwo-Olu’s victory on the grounds that he is not competent to run as a gubernatorial candidate in the election.

They had also alleged that the March 9 polls were characterised by violence, voting irregularities and that Sanwo-Olu had no voters card and as such cannot vote or be voted for.

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