Presidential election petitions: Avoid technicalities, delays, court warns parties, lawyers

The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, yesterday, commenced hearing in the petitions seeking to nullify the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.

Though, the tribunal held its inaugural session, a legal ritual that precedes the actual hearing of petitions, at the session, a five-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal would determine all the five petitions challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the presidential election, were revealed.

While the panel will be headed by the Presiding Justice (PJ) of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, Justice Haruna Tsammani, other members of the panel are; Justice Stephen Adah (PJ Asaba Division), Justice Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf (Asaba Division), Justice Boluokuromo Ugo (Kano Division) and Justice Abba Mohammed (Ibadan Division).

The sitting of the court held amid tight security presence at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, venue of the Presidential Election Petition Court.

This came as Action Alliance, AA, yesterday, withdrew the petition against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

The party, through its team of lawyers led by Mr. Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, applied to discontinue further proceedings in the matter, shortly after the court, kick-started its pre-hearing session.

In another development, the court barred Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State from standing before it as the representative of Tinubu.

The court proceeding is commencing 21 days to the May 29, swearing date of the President-elect, Tinubu.

‘Avoid technicalities, sensation’

In his opening remarks, the presiding judge, Justice Tsammani, urged lawyers representing all the petitioners to avoid sensational comments, stressing that the court would not tolerate time-wasting tactics and technicalities.

He said: “As we commence hearing of the petitions, let us avoid making sensational comments. Let us consider the safety and interest of the country, that is paramount.

“We should avoid unnecessary time-wasting applications and objections, so that we can look at the substance of the case rather than unnecessary technicalities.

“Let us co-operate with each other, so, that every one will be satisfied that justice has been done.
Responding, lead counsel to the President-elect, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, assured the court of maximum co-operation by his team, saying there is need for the matter to be determined without recourse to unnecessary technicalities.

Likewise, head of the team of lawyers representing the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, said he would do everything possible to assist the court to do justice.

On his part, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, who is representing the Labour Party and its candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, noted that the petitions were of great public interest, adding, “At the end of the day, I am very confident that the petitions will impact on Nigeria’s jurisprudence and constitutionalism.“

“We will do everything possible to assist your Lordships,” he added. INEC, also, through its lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, expressed confidence in the electoral body’s ability to do justice on all the petitions before it.

“My Lords, we are confident that at the end of the day, justice will be done,” Mahmood SAN, stated.
Meanwhile, the court said it would only conduct pre-hearing session on three of the petitions, while the remaining two petitions would be heard today.

The three petitions, the court said it would hear, were the ones of Action Alliance, AA, filed against INEC, that of the All Peoples Party, APP, as well as the petition by Obi and the LP, while the remaining petitions are the ones filed by the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, and Atiku of the PDP.

Sitting starts amid tight security

Yesterday’s sitting started amid tight security at the Court of Appeal in Abuja venue of the Presidential Election Petition tribunal.

Recall that INEC, had on March 1, announced Tinubu of the APC as winner of the presidential poll, ahead of 17 other candidates that contested the election.

It declared that Tinubu scored a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who polled a total of 6,984,520 votes and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes.
Both Atiku and Obi challenged the outcome of the presidential election.

Aside from contending that the President-elect was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election, the petitioners, equally alleged that the Tinubu’s election victory was invalid by reason of corrupt practices.

Besides, they accused INEC of failing to comply with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, both in the conduct and collation of results of the election, across the 36 states of the federation.

They maintained that Tinubu was at the time of the election, not qualified to contest, insisting that the Vice-President elect, Kashim Shettima, was previously nominated for a senatorial election.

They also argued that the President-elect was previously indicted in a drug- related case.

However, Tinubu has since filed processes for the petitions to be dismissed.

Aside from the PDP and LP candidates, the Action Alliance, AA and the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, also challenged the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the presidential election.

While AA filed alongside its candidate, Solomon Okanigbuan, they told the court that its candidate, Okanigbuan, was validly nominated to contest the presidential election but was unlawfully excluded by INEC.

The party maintained that the presidential election was thus, “Invalid for non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, as amended.

It argued that Tinubu “Was thus not validly elected as his election contravenes the Electoral Act, the 1999 Constitution and INEC Guidelines for the 2023 general elections.”

But the petitioners told the court that Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, who was cited as the 4th respondent, was not a member of the AA and was not sponsored by the party, adding that he did not participate in its presidential primary election.

On its part, APM, through its lawyer, Mr. O. Atoyebi, SAN, argued that the withdrawal of Mr. Ibrahim Masari, who was initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC, invalidated Tinubu’s candidacy in view of Section 131(c) and 142 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The party argued that there was a gap of about three weeks between the period that Masari, who was listed as the 5th respondent, expressed intention to withdraw and his actual withdrawal of his purported nomination, and the time Tinubu purportedly replaced him with Shettima.

It argued that Tinubu’s candidature had elapsed as at the time he nominated Shettima as Masari’s replacement, “and he was no longer in a position constitutionally to nominate a running mate since he had ceased to be a presidential candidate of the APC having regards to the provisions of section 142 of the 1999 Constitution.

It, therefore, prayed the court to declare that Shettima was not qualified to contest as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC as at February 25 when the election was conducted by INEC having violated the provisions the of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

“An order to set aside the Certificate of Return that was issued to Tinubu and to also issue an order declaring the candidate with the next highest number of votes as the winner of the presidential election.

AA withdraws petition against Tinubu, INEC

In another development, AA, through its team of lawyers led by Mr. Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, applied to discontinue further proceedings in the matter, shortly after the court kick-started its pre-hearing session.
Oba, SAN, told the court that the petitioners filed a withdrawal notice on May 3.

Following a no-objection stance by all the respondents in the matter, the Justice Tsammani led five-member panel dismissed the petition.

You can’t stand in for Tinubu, court tells Gov Lalong

Meanwhile, when the AA petition was called, the Plateau State governor, Lalongm stood up and announced himself as Tinubu’s representative.

“My Lords, my name is Simon Lalong and I am here to represent Tinubu,” the governor stated.

However, the Justice Tsammani-led five-member panel declined to recognise him as Tinubu’s representative.

“You cannot represent an individual. Tinubu is not a corporation that would need a representative,” the presiding judge held. “My Lords, in that case, I will represent the APC,” governor Lalong responded.

Court adjourns hearing on Obi’s petition till Wednesday

The court has adjourned pre-hearing session on the petition the Labour Party and its candidate, Peter Obi filed to nullify Tinubu’s election victory till Wednesday.

The court equally fixed the same date for another petition by the Action Peoples Party, APP, while it adjourned the case the PDP, and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, till today.

While adjourning the cases, the court urged the parties to identify all the witness statements and documents they would rely on or object to during the actual hearing of the petitions.

Among those in court to witness the proceedings included the presidential candidate of the LP, Mr. Peter Obi.

Petitions to be concluded within 180 days

Meanwhile, the court has 180 days to hear and conclude all the petitions.

According Section 285(5) to (7) of the 1999 constitution as amended, it provides that: “An election petition shall be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of result of the elections.

“An election tribunal shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition.

“An appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or Court of Appeal in an election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of the delivery of the judgment of the tribunal or Court of Appeal.”

Source: Vanguard News Nigeria

Sign up for Updates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of new posts by email.