The National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square on Lagos Island has dismissed the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate for the Lagos Central senatorial district, Adewale Gomez challenging the return of Senator Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni.
The three-man panel chaired by Justice Faruku Bunza dismissed the petition on grounds of abandonment after listening to the submissions of Wahab Shittu (SAN) who represented the applicant/respondent, Eshinlokun-Sanni of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The other members of the tribunal are Justice Livingstone Eruba and Kadi Mohammed Inuwa.
On July 6, Senator Eshinlokun-Sanni who was duly returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had through his counsel, Shittu, filed an application brought pursuant to Section 18 (1), (3) and (4) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
He asked the tribunal to make an order dismissing the petition filed by Gomez for abandonment having not complied with paragraph 18(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
INEC and the APC were listed as respondents to that application.
In facts put to support the application, Lekan Taiwo, a Litigation Assistant in the law firm of Wahab Shittu SAN & Co., had deposed to an affidavit stating that the petitioners served on Eshilokun-Sanni (the 2nd Respondent) a copy of their petition on June 2, 2023.
Since that time, the 1st Respondent, INEC did not file a response to the petition despite having a period of 21 days to do so. This right of reply elapsed on June 22, 2023.
The facts also state that the petitioners had seven days from the date of close of pleadings to file an application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice.
The pleadings closed on June 22, 2023.
The petitioners also had until June 29, 2023, to apply for the issuance of pre-hearing notice but failed to do so after the pleadings closed.
“The failure of the petitioners to apply for the issuance of the Notice of Pre-Hearing Session at the required time renders the Petition incompetent,” Taiwo said.
Having abandoned the petition, Shittu told the tribunal that the negligence of the petitioners had robbed it of the jurisdiction to hear the petition.
The senior lawyer asked the tribunal to grant the order to dismiss the petition in the interest of justice.
In its counter affidavit on July 12, the petitioner, through one of his lawyers, agreed that INEC failed to file any reply.
It also attached the petitioner’s application for the issuance of pre-hearing information and the response of the 2nd respondent to the same.
The petitioner then asked the tribunal to dismiss the 2nd respondent’s application for being frivolous.
In its decision, the tribunal ruled in favour of the reliefs sought by the applicant.
The PDP senatorial candidate, Adewale Gomez had approached the tribunal to invalidate the election of Senator Eshilokun-Sanni, claiming irregularities in the election.