An Election Petition Tribunal sitting at Ikeja, Lagos, on Monday, dismissed a petition filed by the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the Labour Party (LP) challenging the victory of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State governor, in the March 9 polls.
Justice T. T Asua, Chairman of the tribunal, in a ruling dismissed the petitions due to 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 three-man panel stressed 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 could not commence or get to the stage of judgment.
The panel 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.
Dismissing the petitions, Justice Asua said 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 was dismissal of such a petition.
Following the pronouncement, Mr Bola Aidi, the counsel to AD and LP, thanked the tribunal for a well considered ruling
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sanwo-Olu, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner (REC), were listed as respondents to the petitions.
Other respondents included the Returning Officer for the Lagos State governorship election, the Commissioner of Police and the Nigerian Army.
Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), counsel to Sanwo-Olu, had via a motion filed on May 22, raised an objection based on Paragraph 18 (1)(4) of the Electoral Act.
Owonikoko noted that the AD and LP had not filed applications hearings for pre-trial conference within seven-days after the close of pleadings.
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.
The AD, its gubernatorial candidate, Chief Owolabi Salis, and LP, alongside Prof. Ifagbemi Awamaridi, its governorship candidate, had in their petitions challenged Sanwo-Olu’s victory on the grounds that he was not competent to run for the office in the election.
The petitioners claimed that the March 9 poll was marred by violence, irregularities and that Sanwo-Olu could not vote or be voted for as he had no valid voter card.