The Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja yesterday dismissed the petition filed by the defeated governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos State, Chief Owolabi Salis, challenging the victory of Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 election.
The three-man panel headed by Justice T. T Asua dismissed the petition while ruling on a preliminary application filed by Sanwo-Olu and his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), challenging the competence of the petition.
Justice Asua held in the ruling that the failure of the petitioners to file applications for pre-hearing conference after the close of pleadings within seven days as prescribed by law rendered his case incompetent.
The tribunal also held that a 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 judgment stage.
Justice Asua further stated 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.
The three-man panel, therefore, held that inability to serve any of the respondents was not an excuse and that the consequence of failure to apply timely for pre-hearing conference should lead to the dismissal of such a petition.
The petitioner has joined, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sanwo-Olu, APC and the INEC’s resident electoral commissioner for Lagos State as respondents to the petition.
Also joined as respondents are the Returning Officer for the Lagos State Governorship Election, the Commissioner of Police and the Nigerian Army.
The counsel to the Governor, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) had in a Motion filed on May 22 challenged the petition based on Paragraph 18(1)(4) of the Electoral Act.
Owonikoko noted that the AD had not filed applications for pre-trial conference hearing within seven days after the close of pleadings as stipulated by law.
Aidi, however in his response dated May 26 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 Salis 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 polls were marred by violence, voting irregularities and that Sanwo-Olu cannot vote or be voted for as he has no valid voters card.