The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has set aside the judgment of the Lagos State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which dismissed the petition of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and its candidate, Mr Owolabi Salis.
The court lead by Justice Hussein Mukthar also set aside the judgment in the appeal filed by Labour Party and its candidate, Mr Ifagbemi Awamaridi, challenging Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s election.
In a unanimous judgment delivered on Tuesday by the five-man panel, the court held that the petitions have merit.
It, therefore, remitted them back to the lower court for expeditious hearing.
Apart from Justice Mukthar who presided, the four other justices of the appeal court include Justice Daniel-Kalio who read the judgment of the AD, Justice O. Ogbuinya who read the judgment for the Labour Party.
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Others are Justice Stephen Adah and Justice B. Aliyu.
On June 17, the Lagos State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in the Ikeja dismissed the petitions filed by the two political parties and their governorship candidates challenging the return of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 election.
A three-man panel headed by Justice Terhemen Asua held that the failure of the AD and Salis to file applications for pre-hearing conference after the close of pleadings within seven days as prescribed by law rendered their petition incompetent.
The Tribunal also held that a timely application for pre-hearing conference was a condition precedent to the hearing of the petitions and without it, the petition cannot commence or get to judgment stage.
The Petitioners, AD and Salis, had in their petitions challenged Sanwo-Olu’s victory on the ground that he was not competent to run as a governorship candidate in the election.
They also claimed that the March 9 poll was marred by violence, voting irregularities and that Sanwo-Olu could not vote or be voted for as he had no valid voter’s card.
The petitioners joined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Sanwo-Olu, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner for Lagos State as respondents to the petition.
Also joined as respondents were the Returning Officer for the Lagos State Governorship Election, the Commissioner of Police and the Nigerian Army.
But the governor, through his counsel, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), noted that the petitioners had not filed applications for pre-trial conference hearing within seven days after the close of pleadings as stipulated by law.
The petitioners responded by quoting Section 285(8) of the Fourth Alteration of the 1999 Constitution which they said does not permit any electoral petition to be terminated at the interlocutory stages.
But the Tribunal held that the section was not applicable because an application for the pre-hearing conference was a precondition for election petitions.