The National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) Lagos has dismissed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s petition seeking to nullify the victory of Senator Adebule Idiat Oluranti in the February 25 senatorial election.
A three-man panel of the Tribunal in a unanimous decision upheld Dr. Oluranti’s argument that the 1st and 2nd petitioners – Segun Adewale and the PDP – abandoned their petition.
The panel comprised Justice Ashua Ewah (Chairman), Justice Abdullahi Ozegya and Justice M. A. Sambo.
Adewale, popularly known as “Aeroland” was the PDP’s candidate in the election, while Adebule, a former Lagos State Deputy Governor, is of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Adebule polled 361,296 votes to defeat Adewale, who got 248,653 votes.
Dissatisfied, he and his party approached the Tribunal with a petition marked EPT/LAG/SEN/04/2023, seeking to reverse Adebule’s victory as affirmed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He listed Adebule, APC and INEC as the 1st to 3rd respondents.
But opposing them, 1st Respondent Adebule, through her team of counsels: Bolu Agbaje Akadri with Adetokunbo Davies and Chidiogor Ozokwelu, prayed for “an order deeming this petition as abandoned against all the Respondents and striking it out in limine.”
Adebule, through her counsel, raised seven grounds for her application. They are that:
“By virtue of Paragraph 18 (1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), the Petitioners are mandated to within seven days alter the filing and service of the Respondent’s reply apply for the issuance of pre-hearing notice in Form TF 007.
“The Applicant herein filed its reply to the petition on the 5th day of May, 2023.
“In response to the Applicant’s reply, the Petitioners filed their reply on the 10th of May, 2023 and contemporaneously issued prehearing notice TF007 on the same day.
“The Petitioners’ reply was not served on the Applicant until the 25th of May, 2023 when the petition came up before the Tribunal.
“By the clear provision of Paragraph 18 (1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), the Petitioner can only issue Form TF007 within seven days after the filing and service of their reply to the Applicant’s reply.
“By issuing Form TF007 contemporaneously with the filing of the reply even before same could be served on the Applicant, the Form TFO07 issued was premature and liable to be struck out and a fortiori, the petition is deemed abandoned.
“That in the circumstances, this Honourable Tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the Petitioners petition because same is deemed abandoned.”
During proceedings on Friday, August 8, 2023, Anjous Joseph Babatunde, Edmund Z Biriomoni with A.A Egbaereva and Don Akaegbu represented the petitioners.
Osasu Isibor with Adebisi Oridate, Karen Eguasa and Similoluwa Sebiomo were for the 2nd Respondent APC, while G.A Daniel represented the 3rd Respondent.
The matter was originally slated for adoption of Final Addresses, however, the Tribunal informed parties that having been served with related judgments of the Court of Appeal in CA/LAG/EP/SEN/02/2023 and CA/LAG/EP/SEN/03/2023, it would deliver its composite ruling on the Applications of the 1st and 2nd Respondents.
On the issue of abuse of court process and the objection raised by the 1st Respondent that the Petitioners’ written address was improper and against the rules of court as it was more than 10 pages, the Tribunal, in the interest of justice, allowed the petitioners written address and moved on to give its decision on the substantive motion.
On the substantive issue, the Tribunal found that the petitioner did not counter germane paragraphs of the Respondents’ affidavit in support of the motion regarding the date of the filling of the application of the Petitioners for issuance of the notice for pre-hearing session.
It held that the argument by the Petitioner that its premature application for Pre-hearing session was not fatal as to cause the petition to be struck out, was not tenable in the light of section 18 (3), (4),& (5) of The Electoral Act 2022.
The Tribunal also noted that the Court of Appeal had also concluded that there was no valid Pre-hearing application and set aside the Pre-hearing session, thus the Tribunal was bound by the decision of the Court of appeal.
Thus, the Tribunal found in accordance with the appellate court judgment that the Petitioners having failed to apply for the issuance of pre-hearing notice, were deemed to have abandoned the Petition.
“The Applications of the 1st and 2nd Respondents succeed on the merit and the Petition is accordingly dismissed having been abandoned by the Petitioners,” the Tribunal held.