Appeal court refers Sanwolu’s victory petition back to tribunal

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Ikeja to resume hearing of two petitions challenging Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s victory at the March 9 governorship election.
A five-man panel of the court led by Justice Hussein Mukthar, in a unanimous decision, allowed the two petitions.
They were filed by the defeated governorship candidates of the Alliance for Democracy in Lagos State, Owolabi Salis, and his Labour Party counterpart, Ifagbemi Awamaridi, respectively.
Other members of the panel were Justices O. O. Daniel-Kalio, O. F. Ogbuinya, Stephen Adah and B. B. Aliyu.
The appellate court, in two similar judgments, had upturned the June 17 decision of the Tribunal which dismissed the petitions filed by Salis and Awamaridi.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the  tribunal upturned  the decision on the ground that both petitioners failed to file their  applications for pre-hearing conference within seven days as prescribed by the law.
The appeal court held that the tribunal erred when it ruled that the appellants had abandoned their petitions.
The appeal court noted that the Tribunal failed to check its own record of proceedings before determining that Salis and Awamaridi filed out of time.
He said: “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’s ruling was also similar on Awamaridi’s appeal.
The respondents in the suit are:   the Independent National Electoral Commission, Sanwo-Olu, the All Progressives Congress and the INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner.
Others include:  the Returning Officer for The Lagos State Governorship Election, the Commissioner of Police and the Nigerian Army.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that on June 17, the tribunal led by its chairman, Justice T.T. Asua, dismissed the petitions filed by the AD and the LP.
The three-man panel of the tribunal had noted then that timely application for a pre-hearing conference was a condition to the hearing of the petitions.
It held among other things that without the application for pre-hearing conference, the petition would not begin or get to the stage of judgment.