COURT PROCEEDINGS ended unexpectedly on Wednesday at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) due to the request by a lawyer to Atiku Abubakar and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chris Uche (SAN) for an adjournment to enable his clients react to the responses filed against a fresh motion by Atiku and the PDP.
Atiku and his party are challenging the outcome of the last presidential election at the tribunal. Although they came second behind President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), they claimed to have won based on some results they gleaned from a central server purportedly utilised by the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to transmit the result of the election.
The PEPT, in a ruling on June 24, declined the petitioners’ request to be allowed access to the supposed server, which existence INEC has denied. The tribunal adjourned till June 26 for further pre-hearing session.
At the resumption of proceedings yesterday, the petitioners were expected to pursue their petition, but their lawyer took all by surprise when he prayed the tribunal for an adjournment to enable them file replies-on-point-of-law to the respondents’ replies to the petitioners’fresh motion seeking to quash the proceedings conducted on June 11 by the tribunal.
Lawyers to the the respondents – INEC, Buhari and APC – Yunus Usman (SAN), Yusuf Ali (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi did not object to Uche’s request.
But Uche urged the tribunal to conduct other pre-hearings related to the petition rather than wasting the day, a request respondents’ lawyers objected to.
Usman, Ali and Fagbemi said they could only concede should the petitioners withdraw their fresh motion or reply orally, a suggestion Uche rejected and insisted on filing replies to the respondents’ responses.
Ruling, PEPT’s Chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba said the tribunal would prefer to conclude the hearing of all pending applications/motions before delving into other issues related to the petition.
Justice Garba adjourned till July 1 for the hearing of the fresh motion by the petitioners and the consideration of any other pre-hearing issues.
In the fresh motion filed on June 18, Atku and the PDP prayed the tribunal to set aside its proceedings of June 11 during which it accepted as undefended, an application filed by the APC, in which the party sought to strike out the petition because it was defective.
In a ruling on June 11, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to file the required counter-affidavit against the application by the APC and recorded the application as unchallenged.
It is that ruling that Atiku and the PDP, by their fresh motion, want the tribunal to set aside, a request the respondents have also opposed with their various counter applications, some of which Uche said, were served on him late, and in respect of which he sought an adjournment to enable his team reply.
In the application accepted by the tribunal as undefended, the APC wants the tribunal to dismiss the petition by Atiku and the PDP, or alternatively, strike out several paragraphs that were not supported by facts and laws.
APC also wants the tribunal to remove 10 states from the list of states Atiku alleged electoral malpractices took place in the February 23 Presidential Election because the petitioners failed to disclose the specific polling units where the alleged infraction, which they claimed, took place, thereby “making their claims imprecise, nebulous and vague”.
The APC also asked the tribunal to strike out paragraphs in the petition, where allegations of thuggery, arrest, intimidation and conversion were made against Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Police and individuals who were not joined as defendants in their petition.
The APC also applied that the claim by Atiku and the PDP that President Buhari was not educationally qualified to stand for the presidential election be expunged from their petition because it is a pre-election matter, which the tribunal has no jurisdiction for.
Also, the APC urged the tribunal to strike out the petition because it failed to comply with the mandatory provisions of paragraphs 4 and 7 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 and Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution.
The APC similarly faulted the petition “for being incompetent and in gross violation of sections 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act” and, therefore, urged that the petition be struck out with the lists of documents and witnesses to be relied upon by the petitioners.
Urging the tribunal to reject the fresh motion, INEC, Buhari and the APC argued that it was an abuse of court process because the petitioners had appealed, at the Supreme Court, the tribunal’s June 11 ruling, which they sought the tribunal to set aside.