BREAKING NEWS: Tribunal Dismisses PDP Senatorial Suit Against APC

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The Election Petition Tribunal at Tafawa Bale Was Square (TBS) in Lagos has rejected the PeoĀ­ples Democratic Partyā€™s (PDP) petition to invalidate Senator Idiat Oluranti Adebuleā€™s victoĀ­ry in the February 25 senatorial election.

The three-member panĀ­el unanimously upheld Dr. Adebuleā€™s contention that the 1st and 2nd petitioners, Segun Adewale and the PDP, abanĀ­doned their petition.

The panel comprised JusĀ­tice Ashua Ewah (chairman), Justice Abdullahi Ozegya and Justice M. A. Sambo.

Adewale, popularly known as ā€˜Aeroā€™ was the PDPā€™s canĀ­didate 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.

However, he and his parĀ­ty approached the tribunal with a petition marked EPT/ LAG/SEN/04/2023, seeking to reverse Adebuleā€™s victory as affirmed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He listed Adebule, APC and INEC as the 1st to 3rd responĀ­dents.
Opposing them, the 1st reĀ­spondent, Adebule, through her team of lawyers, Bolu Agbaje Akadri with Adetokunbo DaĀ­vies and Chidiogor Ozokwelu, prayed for ā€œan order deeming this petition as abandoned against all the respondents and striking it out in limine.ā€

Adebule, through her counĀ­sel, raised seven grounds for her application. They are that: ā€œBy virtue of paragraph 18 (1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), the petiĀ­tioners are mandated to within seven days alter the filing and service of the respondentā€™s reĀ­ply for the issuance of pre-hearĀ­ing notice in Form TF 007.

ā€œThe applicant herein filed its reply to the petition on the 5th day of May, 2023.

ā€œIn response to the appliĀ­cantā€™s reply, the petitioners filed their reply on the 10th of May, 2023 and contemporaneously issued prehearing notice TF007 on the same day.

ā€œThe petitionersā€™ reply was not served on the applicant unĀ­til the 25th of May, 2023 when the petition came up before the tribunal.

ā€œBy the clear provision of paragraph 18 (1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), the petitionĀ­er can only issue Form TF007 within seven days after the filĀ­ing and service of their reply to the applicantā€™s reply.

ā€œBy issuing Form TF007 contemporaneously with the filing of the reply even before same could be served on the apĀ­plicant, the Form TFO07 issued was premature and liable to be struck out and a fortiori, the petition is deemed abandoned.

ā€œThat in the circumstances, this honourable tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the petitioners petition because same is deemed abandoned.ā€

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 reĀ­lated judgments of the Court of Appeal in CA/LAG/EP/ SEN/02/2023 and CA/LAG/ EP/SEN/03/2023, it would deĀ­liver its composite ruling on the applications of the 1st and 2nd respondents. Ā­

On the issue of abuse of court process and the objection raised by the 1st respondent that the petitionersā€™ written address was improper and against the rules of court as it was more than 10 pages, the triĀ­bunal, 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 petiĀ­tioner did not counter germane paragraphs of the respondentsā€™ affidavit in support of the moĀ­tion 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 premaĀ­ture application for pre-hearĀ­ing 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 petiĀ­tioners having failed to apply for the issuance of pre-hearing notice, were deemed to have abandoned the petition.

ā€œThe applications of the 1st and 2nd respondents succeed on the merit and the petition is accordingly dismissed having been abandoned by the petitionĀ­ers,ā€ the tribunal held.

Credit: Independent

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