Supreme Court Reserves Judgment in Sanwo-Olu’s Appeal on Governorship Election

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Supreme Court Thursday reserved judgment in a suit filed by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal, which set aside the ruling of the Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in his favour.

The five-member panel of the apex court presided by Justice Mary Odili, reserved judgment shortly after parties in the suit adopted their written addresses as their argument in the suit.

Sanwo-Olu had approached the apex court to upturn the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had ordered the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Lagos State to resume hearing in the petition challenging the declaration of Sanwo-Olu as winner of the March 9 governorship election in Lagos State.

The appellate court in setting aside the decision of the lower court, held that the tribunal was wrong to have discontinued hearing in the petition on grounds that the AD and its governorship candidate, Owolabi Salis, had abandoned their petition.

Similarly, it overturned the decision of the tribunal dismissing the petition filed by Ifagbemi Awamaridi, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party.

The Court of Appeal accordingly ordered that, “the case is to be remitted to the lower court for expeditious hearing of the matter”.

Sanwo-Olu, in the appeal filed and argued by his lawyer, Victor Opara, however urged the apex court to allow the appeal, set aside the ruling of the appellate court and upheld the decision of the tribunal.

But counsel to Salis and Ifagbemi Awamaridi, governorship candidates of AD and LP respectively, in the various submissions urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal and upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had ordered resumed hearing of their petitions.

The tribunal had in a ruling delivered in June 2019, dismissed the petitions filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Labour Party (LP) challenging the victory of Sanwo-Olu at the poll.

The tribunal based its decision on the grounds that the petitioners failed to file application for pre-hearing conference in line with the provisions of the law.

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

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, in addition held that the inability of petitioners to serve any of the respondents with the petition was not an excuse, adding that the consequence of failure to apply for pre-hearing conference on time is dismissal of such a petition.

After listening to the submissions of counsel in the matter, Justice Odili said judgment is reserved to a later date.