The Court of Appeal in Abuja has affirmed Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the bonafide winner of the Lagos Central Senatorial District election.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices on Saturday, dismissed the appeal that was lodged before it by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the senatorial contest, Francis Adewale Gomez for lacking merit.
It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had declared Eshinlokun-Sanni as the winner of the senatorial election that held on February 25.
However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, candidate of the PDP, Gomez, filed a petition before the Lagos State National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal.
The PDP candidate, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. J. B. Daudu, SAN, among other things, contended that the APC and its candidate did not secure the majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
Alleging that the election was characterised by irregularities and corrupt practices, the petitioner, said he was the authentic winner of the contest.
He, therefore, prayed the tribunal to invalidate Eshinlokun -Sanni’s election and order the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that was issued to him by the INEC.
In its ruling, the three-man panel tribunal led by Justice Faruku Bunza, upheld the argument of the 2nd respondent and dismissed the petition.
Other members of the panel that concurred with the decision were Justice L. Eruba and Justice Kadi Inuwa.
Not satisfied with the verdict, the PDP candidate took the case before the appellate court.
His appeal marked: CA/EPT/LA/SEN/05/2023, the appellate prayed the court to determine; ‘Whether a pre-hearing notice filed before the close of pleading in an election petition is of lawful validity?
As well as, “whether the honourable tribunal was correct in law to have ruled on the application dismissing the petition without reserving the
determination of same till the final judgment in compliance with section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)?.”
In its judgement on Saturday, the appellate court held that it found no reason to set aside the verdict of the tribunal.
The court held that the word ‘Shall’ that was used in Paragraph 18 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, required mandatory compliance when making application for Pre Hearing notice under the Electoral Act, 2022.
It added that Pre Hearing Notice effected contrary to Paragraph 18 of the First Schedule would be deemed as premature and incompetent.
The court resolved all the issues against the appellant and accordingly dismissed the appeal as incompetent.