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Lagos East Senatorial Election: Ashafa Floors Salis Again

The Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lagos on Monday, dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Lagos East Senatorial candidate, Mrs. Olabisi Ayodele Salis, against the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Senator Olugbenga Ashafa. The petition was dismissed sequel to an application filed and argued before the tribunal by Barrister Kemi Pinheiro, (SAN) leading two other Senior Advocates, Olusina Sofola and Adesegun Ajibola, urging the tribunal to dismiss the petition for failure of the petitioners to apply for issuance of pre-hearing notice within the time prescribed by the rules of the tribunal.

Pinheiro submitted further that by virtue of paragraph 18 (1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, the petitioners are mandated to apply for the issuance of pre-hearing notice within seven days after filing and service of the petitioners’ reply on the respondents. Consequently, for failure of the petitioners to apply for the issuance of pre-hearing session notice within the time stipulated by the rules of the tribunal, the tribunal deemed the petition had been abandoned.

In the counter-affidavit filed by Dr. Yemi Oke, he contended that the petitioners duly complied with the requirement of the law in applying for the issuance of the pre-hearing notice, and contrary to the deposition of the respondent, he failed to take into account the period of the service of the petitioners’ reply to the respondents in calculating the period within which the pre-hearing notice forms ought to have been issued.

Contrary to the deposition of the respondent, the legal basis for calculating the period of doing an act is statutory. In his verdict, the tribunal upheld the submission of Ashafa’s counsel, Mr. Pinheiro, that the petitioners ought to have filed their application for issuance on pre-hearing session forms on May 25, 2015, and not on May 26, 2015, as they did. The tribunal also held that the failure of the petitioners to comply with the mandatory provisions of electoral act was fatal to its petition, hence, same had been abandoned by the petitioners. Consequently, the tribunal dismissed the PDP’s Senatorial candidate, Mrs. Olabisi Salis’ petition.

In the notice of petition filed before the Tribunal alongside her party PDP, Mrs. Salis stated that she has the right to be returned as duly elected having scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election conducted on March 28, 2015, adding that the said election was conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC). Olabisi stated that at the conclusion INEC,- declared Ashafa winner of the election to represent the people of Lagos East Senatorial district. She claimed that she had scored 126,350 plus 59,008 votes that was illegally deducted, while Ashafa scored 181, 221 votes.

However, Ashafa in his response, and while urging the tribunal to dismiss the petition, stated that the petitioner, Mrs. Salis was not an aspirant of the PDP, and did not participate in the nomination exercise conducted by the PDP, therefore lack the ‘locus standi’ to sue on a matter resulting   from the said process leading to and including the actual primary election, and consequent of his nomination based on the said primary election. Ashafa also stated that no particular of his non-qualification to contest the election have been supplied in the petition.

Adding that the facts pleaded in support of the Salis’ petition were vague, spurious and failed to disclose sufficient materials constituting the alleged substantial non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, capable of nullifying his return. Senator Ashafa also stated that having regards to the averments of facts and calculations of the petition, the petitioners cannot by law and upon the calculations set out in the paragraph of the petition is not contested; and by reason whereof the petition ought to be dismissed.

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