Election Tribunal Upholds Sanwo-Olu’s Victory

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Sanwo-Olu

Gboyega Akinsanmi

An Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja, Lagos State, yesterday dismissed a petition filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Labour Party (LP), challenging the victory of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 election.

The three-man tribunal dismissed the petitions citing the inability of the petitioners to file applications for pre-hearing conference after the close of pleadings within seven days as prescribed by law.

In a ruling he delivered yesterday, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Terhemen Asua noted that timely application for pre-hearing conference was a condition to the hearing of the petitions and without the application for pre-hearing conferences, the petition cannot commence or get to the stage of judgment.

Specifically, he added that Section 285(4) of the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution was inapplicable because the timely application for pre-hearing conferences was a precondition in election petition matters.

Asua, therefore, said that inability to serve any of the respondents was not an excuse, adding that the consequence of failure to apply timely for pre-hearing conference is dismissal of such a petition.

After the verdict, counsel to AD and LP, Mr. Bola Aidi commended the tribunal for the ruling, though it was not clear if the petitioners would contest the ruling at the appeal tribunal

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

Other respondents are the Returning Officer for the Lagos State Governorship Election, the Commissioner of Police and the Nigerian Army. Counsel to Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) had via an application filed on May 22 raised an objection based on Paragraph 18(1)(4) of the Electoral Act.

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

In response, however, Aidi 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’s gubernatorial candidate, Chief Owolabi Salis and his LP counterpart, 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.

The petitioners claimed that the March 9 election was marred by violence, voting irregularities and that Sanwo-Olu cannot vote or be voted for as he has no valid voters card.