Setback for Sanwo-Olu as Appeal Court refers case back to Tribunal

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The Court of Appeal in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the Lagos Election Petition Tribunal to continue trial in petitions filed by the governorship candidates of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Owolabi Salis, and his Labour Party counterpart, Ifagbemi Awamaridi, challenging the victory of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 governorship election in Lagos State.

Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja, Lagos State, had in June dismissed a petition filed by the AD and LP challenging the victory of Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 election.

The three-man tribunal had 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.

The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Terhemen Asua had 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 a dismissal of such a petition.

However, on Tuesday, the Appeal court, in a unanimous decision, ordered the Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to continue hearing of the petition.

“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,” the court held on Owolabi’s appeal.

The appellate court also found merit in a related but separate appeal by the Labour Party Ifagbemi Awamaridi challenging the dismissal of its appeal against the victory of Sanwo-Olu as Governor of Lagos State.

It also ordered an expeditious retrial, The Nation reports.

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