By Ebere Agozie
Abuja – The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved judgment in a suit filed by Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, praying the court to upturn an Appeal Court’s order for the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Lagos State to resume hearing.
Sanwo-Olu, through his Counsel, Victor Opara had approached the apex court to upturn the order of the court of appeal to resume hearing in the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Lagos State.
While Chief Owolabi Salis, the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and his Labour Party counterpart, Ifagbemi Awamaridi prayed the apex court to dismiss the appeal filed by the appellant and uphold the decision of the appeal court.
However, Justice Mary Odili who led the panel of five justices in entertaining the suit reserved the judgment to a later date.
A five-man appellate court panel had held that the tribunal was wrong to have discontinued hearing on the basis that the AD and its governorship candidate, Salis had abandoned their petition.
“The case is to be remitted to the lower court for expeditious hearing of the matter,” the court held.
Similarly, it overturned the decision of the tribunal dismissing the petition filed by Ifagbemi Awamaridi, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party.
The appellate court ordered the return of the petition to the tribunal for expeditious determination.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja, Lagos State, had in June dismissed a petition filed by the AD and LP parties challenging the victory of Sanwo-Olu at the March 9 election.
The tribunal had cited the inability of the petitioners to file applications for pre-hearing conference after the close of pleadings within seven days as prescribed by law.
Justice Terhemen Asua, the Chairman of the tribunal, 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.
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 applying for pre-hearing conference on time is dismissal of such a petition.