May 8, 2023. The Nigeria Lawyer – The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has warned lawyers and political parties to avoid sensational comments that could jeopardise the peace of the country.
The chairman of the five-member panel of justices, Justice Haruna Tsammani, gave the warning yesterday at the beginning of pre-hearing of the disputes arising from the February 25 presidential election.
Other members of the panel are Stephen Adah, Bolaji Yusuf, Moses Ugo and Abba Mohammed.
Five political parties – Action Alliance (AA), Allied Peoples Party (APP), Labour Party (LP), Allied People’s Movement (APM) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – have filed petitions seeking the nullification of the election of Bola Tinubu of APC.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Tinubu the winner of the election with 8,794,726 votes. PDP’s Atiku Abubakar came second with 6,984,520 votes, and LP’s Peter Obi third with 6,101,533 votes.
In their petitions, the parties are asking the panel to nullify the election of Tinubu over alleged irregularities and non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022, especially on the transmission of results from BVAS to IREV or order a rerun.
They are also praying the tribunal to hold that the APC and Tinubu failed to score the majority of lawful votes in the election, including 25 per cent in the FCT.
At the inaugural sitting yesterday, the panel dismissed the petition by the AA and its presidential candidate, David Okonigbuan, seeking to nullify Tinubu’s election.
This followed the application by their two lawyers, Oba Maduabuchi (SAN) and Malachy Nwaekpe Esq, both of who announced their appearance for the AA and claimed to have been instructed by different factions of the political party to withdraw the petition.
The tribunal has also scheduled the pre-hearing of the petitions from PDP and APM for Tuesday while the petitions of LP and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, are adjourned to Wednesday.
After 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.
Peter Obi appeared for the inaugural session including Plateau State’s Governor Simon Lalong whose initial appearance for Tinubu was rejected by the tribunal on the grounds that he cannot represent a non-corporate person.
A group protesting over the outcome of the presidential election during the hearing of Presidential Election Petition Tribunal
Speaking at the inaugural session yesterday, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Tsammani, urged all parties and their legal representatives to “look at the peace and safety of this country; that should be paramount on the minds of every one of us here.”
He also cautioned against using tactics to delay the proceedings at the tribunal, insisting that the matters must be concluded within the timeframe provided by law.
He said the panel and the respective petitioners will streamline all the pre-hearing issues and take them on alternate days.
Reacting, Tinubu’s lead lawyers, Wole Olanipekun (SAN); Atiku Abubakar’s Chris Uche (SAN); Obi’s Levi Uzoukwu (SAN); and INEC’s A. B. Mahmoud (SAN), all pledged their cooperation with the tribunal for the speedy determination of the February 25 election.
The tribunal has fixed May 10 for pre-hearing in the petition of the Action Peoples Party (APP) challenging the outcome of the February 25 presidential poll.
APP and its presidential candidate, Simon Nnadi, are asking the tribunal to disqualify Tinubu over alleged non-qualification to contest the election.
They also argued that INEC failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act by non-transmission of results, which robbed them of their victory in the election, adding that the election was marred by corrupt practices with the results compromised in nine states.
They also contended that the APC and Tinubu did not score the majority of lawful votes cast in the election, including the mandatory 25 per cent of the votes in the FCT.
Earlier, counsel to APP, Obed Agu, informed the court that he has filed a pre-hearing application for the APC and Tinubu to concede the election before the matter because of the weight of evidence at their disposal showing they didn’t win the election.
But lawyers to APC and Tinubu, Lateef Fagbemi and Wole Olanipekun, informed the tribunal that they will deal with the issues at the right time.
INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, informed the court of his client’s pending applications in response to the APP’s petition.
Consequently, the court adjourned APP’s petition until Wednesday, May 10, for the continuation of the hearing.
After adjourning APP’s petition, the tribunal called for the petition by LP and its presidential candidate, Obi.
LP and Obi are challenging the election of Tinubu on the grounds that he was not qualified to contest the election having forfeited the sum of $460,000 in a US court for offences involving narcotics and money laundering.
They further contended that Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim Shettima, was nominated twice as the senatorial candidate of the APC in Borno Central senatorial district and vice-presidential candidate.
They also cited non-compliance with the electoral laws as well as the guidelines of INEC.
Counsel for Peter Obi, Livy Uzoukwu, said they filed their answers to the questions on April 22, 2023.
“We adopt and rely on them in this pretrial proceeding,” he said.
Counsel for INEC, Mahmoud, told the court that the electoral commission had filed its responses to the pre-hearing questions.
Counsel for Tinubu, Olanipekun, also informed the court that his client had filed his answers to the pre-hearing questions.
He said, “We have filed our answers on the 3rd of May 2023 and my Noble Lords under paragraph 14 we have also listed the application subject to the preliminary objection in the reply.”
The court, therefore, adjourned Obi’s petition until Wednesday, May 10.
Lalong barred from representing Tinubu
Meanwhile, the court, yesterday, barred Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State from standing before it as the representative of the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The Plateau State governor had announced himself as Tinubu’s representative.
“My Lord’s my name is Simon Lalong and I am here to represent Tinubu,” the governor stated.
However, the 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 justice held.
“My Lords, in that case, I will represent the All Progressives Congress, APC,” Governor Lalong responded.
AA’s petition dismissed
The tribunal struck out the petition by the Action Alliance (AA) challenging the victory of Tinubu following the party’s withdrawal of the appeal.
The chairman of the tribunal, Justice Tsammani, held that the dismissal was in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Oba Maduabuchi (SAN) and Malachy Nwaekpe Esq announced their appearances for AA.
Both lawyers claimed to have been instructed by different factions of the political party to withdraw the petition.
The party’s presidential candidate, David Okonigbuan, had brought the petition against INEC, APC, Bola Tinubu and Hamza Al Mustapha challenging his exclusion from the election.