• Friday, June 14, 2024
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Explainer: Implication of tribunal’s consolidation of Atiku, Obi, APM petitions against Tinubu

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On Tuesday, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal merged the three petitions challenging the result of the February 25 presidential election.

The merger was done despite objections raised by the legal team of President-elect Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Citing paragraph 50 of the 1st schedule of the Electoral Act, the five-member tribunal led by Justice Haruna Tsammani demanded that the petitions should be consolidated and dealt with as one since they all relate to the same election.

The tribunal’s decision has elicited reactions from Nigerians online, especially on social media.

Some legal practitioners have highlighted the implication of the decision by the tribunal, with all of them agreeing that the action was to save time and would not affect justice delivery, because judgement would be given differently in all the matters.

The lawyers spoke in separate interviews with BusinessDay.

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Seun Olofin, a legal practitioner, said: “Section 50 of the rules of procedure for election petition interpretation, the first schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022 makes provision for consolidation of petitions in relation to the same election or return.

“The implication is that upon consolidation, the petitions are considered and determined as one petition. The aim is to save the time of the court and ensure speed. However, in practical terms, each petition as currently filed is distinct from each other; what applies to one may not apply to the other.”

Cornelius Abiakwu, publicity secretary of the Young Lawyers Forum, Nigerian Bar Association Lagos branch, said the tribunal was not biased in arriving at the decision to consolidate the suits, since the judgement would be given differently in all the matters.

“It is for convenience, to avoid multiplicity of suits, which is the reason the court in its wisdom had to consolidate the matter. It is a procedure matter. It would not affect the judgment at all; it is just that people don’t understand the process,” he said.

Another lawyer, Tope Babafemi, said the 180 days given for the tribunal to deliver judgment makes consolidation of the suits against Tinubu inevitable, considering the limited time available.

He said: “If Peter Obi and the Labour Party need seven weeks to prepare their witnesses and evidence, and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) needs equal time, it therefore means with the consolidation of the two petitions, the two petitioners would have to spend the same time.

“This development also means that apart from time saving, it will save the tribunal and all the parties involved resources and efforts. Since, the two petitioners have both INEC and APC as defendants, justice can be dispensed off earlier than expected.”

The petitioners Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Allied Peoples Movement are urging the court to nullify Tinubu’s victory owing to alleged malpractices during the conduct of the presidential election.

They accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of manipulating the electronics process to favour Tinubu, the APC candidate.

Atiku, the presidential candidate of the PDP, came second in the race, while Obi of the Labour Party was third.