An election tribunal in Lagos today dismissed a petition filed by Ms. Olabisi Ayodele Salis of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the declaration of Bareehu Olugbenga Ashafa as the winner of the Lagos East senatorial seat. Mr. Ashafa ran as a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The tribunal accepted an application argued by Senator Ashafa’s counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, Olusina Sofola, and Adesegun Ajibola, urging the dismissal of the petition on account of the petitioners’ failure to apply for issuance of pre-hearing notice within the time prescribed by the rules of the tribunal.
Mr. Pinheiro had argued that the Electoral Act mandated the petitioner to apply for the issuance of pre-hearing notice within seven days after filing and service of the petitioners’ reply on the respondents. He told the tribunal that the petitioners’ failure to apply for the issuance of pre-hearing session notice within the time stipulated amounted to their abandonment of the case.
In a counter-argument, the petitioners’ lead counsel, Yemi Oke, contended that the petitioners duly complied with the requirement of the law in applying for the issuance of the pre-hearing notice.
Upholding the submission of Senator Ashafa’s counsel, the tribunal ruled that the petitioners ought to have filed their application for issuance of pre-hearing session forms on May 25, 2015 instead of May 26, 2015, as they did.
The tribunal agreed with Mr. Pinheiro that the petitioners’ failure to comply with the mandatory provisions of the electoral act was fatal to their case.
In their original petition, the PDP and their candidate, Ms. Salis, stated that the PDP’s senatorial candidate ought to have been declared winner of the senatorial election, claiming that she had scored the majority of lawful votes cast in the March 28, 2015 senatorial election. The petitioners further argued that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) erred in declaring Mr. Ashafa the winner.
Ms. Salis claimed that she had scored 126,350 plus 59,008 votes that were illegally deducted from her, while Mr. Ashafa scored 181, 221 votes.
In their response, Mr. Ashafa and the APC insisted that Ms. Salis was not a valid candidate of the PDP, claiming that she did not participate in the nomination exercise conducted by the PDP. They argued that she lacked the “locus standi” to sue on the electoral matter.
The APC senator also told the tribunal that the petitioners had not produced facts to prove that he was not qualified to contest the election or that he had been wrongly returned as the winner. He said the petition against him was vague and spurious and failed to disclose sufficient grounds that constitute alleged substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, capable of nullifying his return.