Posted By: MATTHEW IRINOYE
Lagos State Governorship Election Tribunal headed by Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Sirajo, will today decide on whether to hear the preliminary objection filed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, against the petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Jimi Agbaje, in the April 11 election.
It would be recalled that Agbaje is challenging the declaration of Ambode by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC as the winner of the election.
At yesterday’s proceeding, the tribunal proposed that all preliminary objections should be taken along with the petition, asking the parties in the matter to make their submissions.
Counsel to Agbaje, Clement Onwuenwunor, aligned himself with the proposal of the court saying that the proposal represents the position of the law contained in paragraph 12 of the Electoral Act, 2012 as amended.
Onwuenwunor also argued that the Supreme Court decision in Belgore and Ahmed sanctioned the proposal suggested by members of the tribunal.
He further said that if the preliminary objections are taken and later results to an appeal which would take months, the right of his client to present his case would be infringed on; he therefore prayed the court to follow the proposal it had suggested.
Counsel to Akinwunmi, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, however opposed the proposal arguing that paragraph 18 and 47 (1) of the Electoral Act specified that objections shall be taken before the hearing of the petition.
Olanipekun stated that paragraph 47 of the Electoral Act particularly forbid that any motion be heard without first taken preliminary objection except in extreme circumstance, insisting that the tribunal does not have discretion to change the election petition hearing procedure as the Electoral Act leaves no room for manoeuvring.
He added that the petitioner has not presented any extreme circumstance before the court to warrant the non-hearing of the preliminary objection before the substantive motion.
He said that the preliminary objection which his client has raised bordered on the competence of the petitioner to file the suit and as such should be taken before hearing the actual petition.
Counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr Muiz Banire, also opposed the tribunal’s proposal, saying that the procedure would automatically terminate all preliminary objections in the matter.
He argued that the position of the law is that whenever an objection is brought through a motion, such objection must be heard immediately. After hearing argument of all parties, the tribunal adjourned till today for ruling, insisting that the statutory 180-day period for the hearing would commence after the ruling.
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