The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, adjourned further proceedings on the joint petition the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, filed to challenge the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel adjourned the petition till May 18 for the continuation of the pre-hearing session.
Counsel for the petitioners, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, had informed the court that the parties met and agreed on modalities to be adopted with a view to ensuring a seamless progression of the pre-hearing session.
“My lords, counsel for the respective parties have met and put heads together to harmonize and streamline the vital areas and components of the pre-hearing process.
“The first item resolved by the various counsel are documents and we agreed to set up a team together to look at the documents and agree on them in order to eliminate objections while tendering them from the Bar during the hearing.
“We intend to complete that between Monday and Tuesday next week and then prepare a schedule of documents to facilitate the hearing.
“The second one is the issues for trial. For the petitioners we have filed ours on May 11, that is today, and served it on all the parties, subject to any modifications by the honourable court.
“Lastly, with respect to motions pending before your lordships, for us at the moment we have just one motion filed on May 7.
“We are yet to receive responses of the Respondents in respect of the motion which is for televising of the proceedings.
“All together, we have been served with four motions; two from the 1st Respondent and two from the 3rd Respondent.
“We have reacted to the first one by the 1st Respondent and preparing our response to the other ones since we were served not long ago.
“We have agreed to file all our responses and take all of them next week Thursday, subject to the convenience of the court,” Uche, SAN.
Counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mr. A. B. Mahmood, SAN, that of the President-elect, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and that of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Charles Edosomwon, SAN, confirmed the report by counsel for the petitioners.
On the application for live coverage of proceedings of the court, the Respondents said they would file their responses before Monday.
While adjourning the matter, Justice Tsammani commended the parties for their cooperation and agreement, saying it would assist in quick conclusion of the pre-hearing session.
Among those in court to witness the proceedings included the 1st petitioner, Atiku who had in his joint petition with the PDP, marked: CA/PEPC/05/2023, applied for the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that was issued to the President-elect, Bola Tinubu of the ruling APC by INEC.
The Petitioners maintained that the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election was “invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022”.
They further argued that Tinubu’s election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices.
“The 2nd Respondent was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the Election.
“The 2nd Respondent was at the time of the Election not qualified to contest the Election”, Atiku added while listing grounds he said the court should consider nullifying Tinubu’s election.
Atiku is praying the court to declare him the winner of the presidential election, having secured the second-highest number of lawful votes cast at the election.
However, in a reply he filed through his team of lawyers, Tinubu, queried the legal competence of petitions seeking to invalidate his election victory.
In a preliminary objection he entered before the court, Tinubu described Atiku as a consistent serial loser that had since 1993, crisscrossed different political parties, in search of power.
The President-elect said he would during the hearing of the petition, lead evidence before the court to show how Atiku’s emergence as a candidate in the presidential election that held on February 25, led to the “balkanisation” of the opposition PDP.
Insisting that he was validly returned as winner of the presidential election by INEC, Tinubu told the court that unlike Atiku, he has been “a most consistent politician, who has not shifted political tendency and alignment”.
On the claim that he did not secure the statutory vote from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Tinubu, argued that it was not a mandatory requirement of the law that he must win the FCT before he would be declared as the President-elect.
He said Atiku’s call for his election to be nullified on the ground that he was mandatorily required to score one-quarter of the lawful votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the States and the FCT, “becomes suspect and abusive, when considered vis-à-vis relief 150(d), where the petitioners pray that the 1st petitioner who did not score one-quarter of the votes cast in more than 21 States and the FCT, Abuja, be declared the winner of the election and sworn in as the duly elected President of Nigeria”.
INEC had on March 1, announced Tinubu as the 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 who polled a total of 6,984,520 votes and Obi who came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes.