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Appeal Court Orders Lagos Governorship Election Petition Tribunal To Hear Petitions Against Governor Sanwo-Olu

LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR, BABAJIDE SANWO-OLU 

BY FRANCIS IWUCHUKWU, LAGOS 

The Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja, Nigeria, was on Tuesday (today) directed to commence hearing into the petitions questioning the victory of the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election which took place in the state.

The Lagos division of the Court of Appeal, presided over by Justice Hussein Mukthar, in a unanimous decision, allowed the two appeals initiated by the ‘defeated' governorship candidates of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos State, Chief Owolabi Salis, and his Labour Party counterpart, Ifagbemi Awamaridi. 

Other members of the panel were Justice O. O. Daniel Kalio, Justice O. F. Ogbuinya, Justice Stephen Adah and Justice B. B. Aliyu. 

Specifically, the Court of Appeal in two similar judgments, upturned the June 17, 2019 decision of the Tribunal which had thrown out Salis and Awamaridi's petitions on the reason that both petitioners failed to file applications for pre-hearing conference within seven days as prescribed by the law.

The Appellate Court further declared that the Tribunal erred when it ruled that the appellants had abandoned their petitions. 

The upper court also stated that the Tribunal failed to check its own record of proceedings before determining that Salis and Awamaridi filed out of time.

“From the record, it is clear that the tribunal was wrong to have declared the petition as an abandoned petition.

"The case is to be remitted to the lower court for expeditious hearing of the matter," says Justice Daniel-Kalio, who read the lead judgment on Salis’ appeal.

This judgement was agreed to by other justices.

The other justices concurred. 

Even the ruling of the court on appeal filed by Awamaridi, read by Justice Ogbuinya and approved by the other members of the panel, was similar. 

Joined as respondents in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Sanwo-Olu, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner.

Other respondents are the Returning Officer for The Lagos State Governorship Election, the Commissioner of Police and the Army.

It would be recalled that on June 17, 2019, the Tribunal led by its chairman, Justice T.T. Asua, dismissed the AD and LP's petitions.

The three-man Tribunal particularly insisted that timely application for a pre-hearing conference was a condition to the hearing of the petitions.

The Tribunal had equally stated that without the application for pre-hearing conferences, the petition cannot begin or get to the stage of judgment.

The panel also held that Section 285(4) of the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution was inapplicable because of the timely application for a pre-hearing conference was a precondition in election petition matters.

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