The Labour Party (LP) has suffered a setback in Lagos as the National and State House of Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Lagos on Wednesday, 30 August, 2023 upheld the election of Senator Wasiu Sanni Eshinlokun as the duly elected Senator of Lagos Central Senatorial District in the election held on Saturday, 25 February, 2023.
The three-man Tribunal led by Justice Ashua Ewah dismissed the petition filed by the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Architect Abiodun Dabiri.
The Tribunal held that the petition was incompetent as the issue raised falls within pre-election matters.
Other members of the tribunal are: Justices Abdulahi Ozegya and M.A. Sambo.
The 1st to 3rd respondents in the petition are the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, and All Progressives Congress (APC).
The 1st and 2nd petitioners, Arc. Dabiri and the Labour Party (LP) in their petition, filed through their counsel, Ikechukwu Nwana, had sought to render invalid the Lagos Central Senatorial District held on Saturday, February 25, 2023, by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
They contended that the failure of the 1st respondent (INEC) to include the symbol adopted by the 2nd petitioner, LP, or other information relating to the 2nd Petitioner on the ballot papers used for the conduct of the said election rendered the exercise invalid.
However, during the pre-trial hearing, the 2nd respondent, Eshinlokun through his counsel, Wahab Shittu (SAN) filed a preliminary objection on May 8, 2023, and another notice of preliminary objection dated May 18, 2023, for an order striking out the petitioner’s reply dated May 12 and filed May 13, 2023.
The 2nd respondent based his applications on the ground that the 1st petitioner has no locus standing to present the petition on the ground of not being a candidate in the election for Lagos Central Senatorial District held on February 25, 2023.
Shittu also argued that the 1st petitioner is not entitled to present the petition for failure to comply with Section 133(1)(a) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“The ground upon which the petition is predicated relates to sponsorship and nomination of candidate which is a pre-election matter and therefore invalid and unknown to the Electoral Act 2022.
“The second application dated 18th May 2023 is premised on the fact that the Petitioner’s reply was an attempt to enlarge the petition. Contrary to paragraphs 14 (2)(a) and 16(1)(a) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022.”
The learned silk argued that Paragraph 16(1(a) prohibits the petitioners from enlarging or amending their petition by the use of their reply.
He said the tribunal reserved ruling on the two applications to the time of the judgment and urged the panel of judges of the tribunal to pronounce on the two applications and resolve all issues raised in the two applications in favour of the 2nd respondent, Eshinlokun.
Citing the relevant decided case, Shittu submitted that the petitioners cannot rely on the party membership card to prove membership of the 1st Petitioner and we urge the court to so hold.
He urged the tribunal to urge your lordships to dismiss the petition for want of locus standi and flagrant violation of Section 133 of the Electoral Act, 2022, the 1st petitioner had not led any credible evidence to establish his right to bring the petition.
Shittu prayed the tribunal: “We urge this tribunal to hold that the petition has failed; it fails, and ought to be dismissed with punitive cost in favour of the respondents.
“We humbly submit that the tribunal should hold that the petitioners have failed to prove the allegations contained in the petition. Consequently, the reliefs claimed by the petitioners are not grantable by this tribunal and we therefore urge your Lordships to dismiss this petition with substantial cost in favour of the respondents inclusive of the 2nd respondent.”