The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal will continue hearing today (Tuesday) on the petitions challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu as President-elect Tuesday.
It will hear petitions from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) challenging the presidential election.
The tribunal, sitting at the Court of Appeal Abuja, had commenced hearing on Monday around 9:15 am and heard a total of three petitions from the Action Alliance, the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, and petition from the Action Peoples Party (APP).
It, however, adjourned the hearing of the petitions from LP, Obi and APP to enable the parties to raise and agree on issues for determination. All parties are expected to identify issues they would be objecting to or agreeing with before the next pre-hearing session.
Presided by Justice Haruna Tsammani, the tribunal has five-man panel of justices including Justice Stephen Adah of the Court of Appeal Asaba division; Justice Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf, Court of Appeal, Asaba division; Justice Boloukuoromo Ugoh of Kano division and Justice Abba Mohammed of Ibadan Court of Appeal.
Tsammani, in his opening statement, said the panel will deliver justice, and in a timely manner. He sought cooperation of lawyers and senior advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who filed the court room beyond capacity.
Peter Obi, presidential candidate of LP; Simon Lalong, Plateau State governors who represented the All Progressives Congress; Kenneth Okonkwo, a lawyer and Nollywood celebrity were among dignitaries at the hearing.
Atiku, Obi call for live coverage
Atiku and the PDP had in their application dated May 5 specifically prayed the tribunal for “an order directing the court’s Registry and the parties on modalities for admission of media practitioners and their equipment into the courtroom.”
The petitioners had in their applications filed by their lawyers led by Chris Uche, a SAN, averred that their applications are predicated on the fact that the matter under dispute is of “national concern”.
“The matter before the Honourable Court is a dispute over the outcome of the Presidential Election held on 25th February 2023, a matter of national concern and public interest, involving citizens and voters in the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, who voted and participated in the said election; and the International Community as regards the workings of Nigeria’s Electoral Process”.
They are also contending that being a unique electoral dispute with a peculiar constitutional dimension, it is a matter of public interest whereof millions of Nigerian citizens and voters are stakeholders with a constitutional right to receive.
He said: “An integral part of the constitutional duty of the court to hold proceedings in public is a discretion to allow public access to proceedings either physically or by electronic means.
“With the huge and tremendous technological advances and developments in Nigeria and beyond, including the current trend by this Honourable Court towards embracing electronic procedures, virtual hearing and electronic filing, a departure from the Rules to allow a regulated televising of the proceedings in this matter is in consonance with the maxim that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.
According to them, televising court proceedings is not alien to the court, and will enhance public confidence.
They recalled that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had expressed similar concerns in its communique at the end of its National Executive Committee meeting in Birnin Kebbi on March 23, where they had called on the judiciary to allow for live broadcast of court hearings on election petition, particularly the presidential election cases.
This position was supported by lawyers under the aegis of Leaders of Thoughts and Legal Icons, who also noted the importance of the case to public interest.
To this end, the group had invited Nigerians to sign up on an appeal on commonbliceng, a non-partisan online platform, in support of the initiative. This position was also backed by the Obi/ Datti Presidential Campaign Council.
Obiora Ifoh, acting national publicity secretary of the Labour Party, while speaking with BusinessDay on the issue, counseled the tribunal on the need to televise the proceedings of the tribunal, as it will “give credibility to the outcome of the proceedings”.
He said: “With such innovation, there will be greater public confidence in the outcome of proceedings. Nigerians will believe them more if the members of the public are carried along.
“Don’t forget that there is so much trust deficit in public place at the moment. So, I wish they agree to make the proceedings public real time.”
In a related development, Femi Falana, a SAN, and key leaders of thought of Project Nigeria Movement, a body of eminent leaders of thought in the country, led by foremost constitutional lawyer, Ben Nwabueze, have backed calls for live broadcast of election petition trials.
The petitioners and their petitions
The panel will treat a total of five petitions: The Action Alliance (AA) and its Presidential Candidate in the election, Solomon David Okanigbuan and their petition against the declaration of Tinubu as Nigeria’s President-elect. Other respondents in AA’s petition are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), All Progressives Congress (APC) and Hamza Al Mustapha.
The APP and their presidential candidate, Simon Nnadi against Tinubu, APC and INEC. They want the tribunal to disqualify the president-elect alleging tahtbhe is not qualified to contest in the election.
Obed Agu , who is counsel to APP, had filed a pre-hearing application for the APC and Tinubu to concede the election before the matter, saying the weight of evidence at their disposal shows they didn’t win the election.
The party also argued that INEC failed to comply with the provision of the Electoral Act, 2023 by non-transmission of results, and the electiin process was fraught to many irregularities. They added that the APC and Tinubu did not score the majority of votes cast in the election, including the mandatory 25 percent of the votes in the FCT.
The third petition is from LP and Obi with INEC, Tinubu, and Kashim Shetima as respondents. Obi and LP want the tribunal to determine that the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu) having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the Presidential Election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on 25 February 2023.
That the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu) having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the Presidential Election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on 25 February 2023.
The nomination of Kashim Shettima as vice presidential candidate was defective as he did not withdraw from his nomination as a senatorial candidate of his party before accepting to serve as vice presidential candidate of Tinubu.
That the president-elect was not duly elected by the majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election. They alleged that he was linked to drug trafficking by US court; and the conduct of fresh elections.
The fourth petition is filed by the APM with Tinubu, INEC, APC, Kashim Shetima and Kabir Masari as defendants.
The last petition to be treated is one filed by Atiku Abubakar and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against INEC, Tinubu and the APC.
Chris Uche is the head of Atiku’s legal team, Wole Olanipekun is the head of Tinubu’s legal team, while Levi Uzoukwu is the head of Obi’s team. They are all Senior advicates of Nigeria.
Action Alliance withdraws petition against Tinubu, INEC
Action Alliance withdraw petition against INEC, Tinubu. Oba Maduabuchi, the head of the party’s legal team applied to dismiss further shortly after the pre-hearing session commenced, saying the petitioners filed a withdrawal notice on May 3.
Maduabuchi explained that he has been directed to withdraw the petition because the petitioner did not give consent before the petition was filed. He therefore prayed the court to dismiss the petition. The Presiding judge dismissed it in the absence of any objections.
Lawyer seeks fair, speedy dispensation of justice ahead of May 29
At the end of Tuesday’s session, Chris Uche head of Atiku’s legal team, and Levi Uzoukwu, head of Obi’s team in separate interviews with journalists, urged the tribunal to sustain expedient hearing of the petitions in the interest of Nigerians who are waiting anaxiously ahead of May 29 inauguration.
Uzoukwu stressed that the decision to be rendered will on Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence, judicisalism and constitutionalism.
“It is very important that this is made known, because one way or the other I do not think that it will be business as usual as far as Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence is concerned. We have assured he court that we would do all that we can to ensure that this petitions are heard expeditiously because most Nigerians are anxious waiting for the outcome of the hearing
I believe that they would enjoy what is going to happen hear robust advocacy”, he said.
Uche, enthused that the judges and lawyers are committed to ensuring that the hearing is dealt with urgently because of its national importance.
Heavy security, pockets of protesters trail hearing
Meanwhile, the court of appeal in Abuja was heavily guarded by security, and some roads in the federal secretariats were barricaded, causing some hardship for some workers.
Some groups gathered in front of the Tribunal to protest. One of such is the Votes must Count initiative, who demanded for fairness in the hearing process.