Senator Wasiu Sanni Eshinlokun.
THE Court of Appeal, Lagos, sitting in Abuja, has dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for Lagos Central District, Mr. Francis Adewale Gomez, and affirmed the judgment of the trial tribunal in Lagos that confirmed the election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Wasiu Sanni Eshinlokun.
By this judgment of the appellate court, the political ambition of Gomez to represent the good people of Lagos Central Senatorial District has ended for the next four years.
By rejecting Eshinlokun’s confirmation by the trial tribunal in a unanimous judgment delivered on July 24, 2023, Mr. Gomez with his party, the PDP filed an appeal against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Eshinlokun and his party, the APC, contesting the decision of the lower tribunal which dismissed his petition on the ground that he failed to file notice for the commencement of pre-hearing session within seven days after the expiration of 21 days from the service of the petition on INEC, which according to the tribunal breached the provisions of Paragraph 18(1) and (3) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
The National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lagos was presided over by Justice Faruku H. Bunza, who incidentally read the lead judgment, and supported by his brother Justices: L.T.C. Eruba and Kadi M.B. Inuwa who in their decision set aside the petition of Mr. Gomez on the ground that his pre-hearing Notice dated April 24 and filed on April 26, 2023 was premature and therefore failed to meet the Provisions of Section 18 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Based on this decision, Gomez lodged his appeal to set it aside and return him as the duly elected senatorial candidate representing Lagos Central Senatorial District in the election held on February 25, 2023.
To achieve this, he formulated two issues for the Appellate Court to determine:
Whether the trial tribunal was right to have dismissed his petition as being abandoned after parties had filed and exchanged pre-hearing question and answer sheets, and
Whether the trial tribunal was not in error when it failed to apply the Provisions of Section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to defer the objection to the end of hearing the petition before determining it.
In its judgment the Court of Appeal resolved all the issues formulated against the appellant in favour of the respondents and thereafter dismissed the appeal in a unanimous decision.
The appellate court held that the word ‘Shall’ in Paragraph 18 First Schedule connotes mandatory compliance when making application for Pre- hearing notice under the Electoral Act, 2022.
It also ruled that Pre-hearing notice effected contrary to Paragraph 18, First Schedule is premature and incompetent.
And that the opinion of the counsel to Gomez, Mr. Joseph B. Daudu, SAN that 2nd and 3rd respondents lacked locus to challenge service on 1st respondent ‘is an expansion of the statute. ‘It cannot scale through and therefore must hit the rock’.
In all, the Court of Appeal threw out the entire action brought by Gomez and PDP and returned Eshinlokun as the senator elected for Lagos Central Senatorial Zone.
Mr. Joseph B. Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, pursued the appeal for Gomez and PDP alongside Precious Andrew, Esq; and Aishatu Isah, while Mr. Wahab Shittu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, appeared for Eshinlokun with V.O. Ubaka Esq; E. Ufot Esq; and S. Isah Esq.
Mr. Benson represented APC while INEC was not represented by counsel.
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