Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu
By Davidson Iriekpen
The National Assembly/ Legislative House Election Petitions tribunal in Lagos, Wednesday dismissed the petition filed by Labour Party (LP) against the election of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, as senator representing Lagos Central senatorial district for lack of jurisdiction.
The tribunal’s decision was based on a recent Supreme Court judgment that all election petitions should be concluded within 180 days.
The tribunal had earlier fixed March 5 to deliver judgment on the petition but had to hurriedly invited parties to appear in court for the judgment in view of the decision of the apex court.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice A A Nwaigwe, in his decision, held that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to continue hearing of the petition going by the recent Supreme Court judgment that all election petitions should be concluded within 180 days.
The LP had challenged the ruling of the tribunal which upheld the election of Tinubu. The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to comply with paragraph 18 (1), (2) and (4) of the Electoral Act which states that application for pre-hearing notice shall be by motion and not through letter to the tribunal.
But in the appeal instituted by Chief Chukwuma (SAN), counsel to LP, he prayed the appellate court to allow the appeal and set aside the ruling on the tribunal.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos in its judgment had directed that the election petition filed by Labour Party (LP) challenging the decision of the tribunal should be heard de novo (afresh) by a new Election Panel to be constituted by the President Court of Appeal.
n its lead judgment delivered by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, supported by Justice R N Pemu and Justice M A Danjuma, the court held that the tribunal was wrong when it dismissed the petition file by Labour Party on the basis that its application for pre-hearing was made through letter to the secretary of the tribunal and not by a Motion.
The court held: “I must say that authorities available to this court both reported and unreported are conflicting and confusing. On one hand some authorities are of the view that pre-hearing sessions must be activated by Motion on Notice while on the other hand some are of the view that a mere letter is substantive enough.”
Justice Ogunwumiju said: “I have always held a liberal view on election matters especially at this time when our democracy is still in its infancy. It will not augur well to sacrifice the aspiration of the public on the altar of technical justice. Election petitions are emotional issues both to the candidates and the public. So any interpretation that will shut-out a litigant from the seat of judgment should be avoided.”