By Olakunle Olasanmi
The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal began sitting yesterday in Abuja with a pledge to ensure justice for those who deserve it.
The tribunal fixed the hearing of the petitions filed by the Action Peoples Party (APP) and the Labour Party for tomorrow.
Prominent Nigerians, civil society organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders have repeatedly urged the tribunal to avoid miscarriage of justice and earn the citizens’ confidence in the judiciary.
This may have prompted the tribunal to assure Nigerians that it would not do the bidding of the contending parties and presidential candidates.
The parties are challenging the declaration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressive Congress as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
In the petition marked CA/ABJ/PEPC/02/2022, the APP is challenging the results of the presidential election on the grounds of irregularities, including alleged mutilation of election results.
Before the tribunal began sitting, its chairman, Justice Haruna Tsamani, warned parties to shun sensational comments that could inflame passions in the country.
Justice Tsammani, in his inaugural speech during the tribunal sitting yesterday, assured parties that justice will be given to the one who deserves it. He told counsel in the matter to cooperate with the Tribunal to ensure that the petitions are decided speedily.
“I want to appeal to everyone in this matter not to make sensational comments that could set the country on fire. We on our part too will ensure that justice is given to the one who deserves it,” he said.
The APP, which is the only applicant in the petition, is also challenging Tinubu’s victory on the grounds that “the first respondent was not qualified to stand for the said election having knowingly supplied false information”, including the alleged falsification of age and educational qualifications
It also stated that “the first respondent was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the election.”
The party also alleged corrupt practices by the staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and voter inducement, among others, which, according to the APP, affected the outcome of the election, adding that the election was characterised by “monumental vote buying.”
According to the party, “the over-voting took place under the watchful eyes of agents of the third respondent.”
Following the withdrawal and consequent dismissal of the petition by the Action Alliance, the APP’s petition was called and the parties announced appearances.
The national legal adviser of the APP, Peter Abang, announced his appearance for the Action Peoples Party, while Obed Agu announced his appearance as the party’s legal representative.
For the respondents, Wole Olanipekun announced appearance for Bola Tinubu; Lateef Fagbemi for the APC; and Abubakar Mahmoud for INEC.
Fagbemi, the APC’s counsel, informed the court of his preliminary objection to APP’s petition while INEC’s lawyer, Mahmoud, informed the court of his client’s pending applications in response to APP’s petition
Consequently, the court adjourned APP’s petition until Wednesday, May 10, for continuation of hearing.
After the adjournment of APP’s petition to Wednesday, by noon the petition by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, was called up.
Parties announced their appearances after Obi, who is the first petitioner in the case, introduced himself.
The LP and its presidential candidate, Obi, are challenging the outcome of the February 25 presidential election on the grounds that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election “for an offence involving dishonesty, namely narcotics trafficking imposed by the United States District Court.”
They also cited non-compliance with the electoral laws as well as the guidelines of INEC.
Labour Party’s national publicity secretary, Obiora Ifoh, appeared as LP’s representative; May Agbamuche-Mbu appeared on behalf of INEC; Simon Lalong, the Plateau State governor, appeared for the APC.
Livy Uzoukwu appeared for Obi, while Mahmoud was the counsel for the electoral commission.
The duo of Olanipekun and Fagbemi maintained appearances for Tinubu and the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima, and the APC respectively.
The counsel for Peter Obi, Uzoukwu, said they had filed their answers to the questions on April 22, 2023.
“We adopt and rely on them in this pre-trial proceeding.
The counsel for INEC, Mahmoud, told the court that the electoral commission had filed its responses to the pre-hearing questions.
The counsel for Tinubu, Olanipekun, also informed the court that his client had filed his answers to the pre-hearing questions.
He said, “We 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.”
He adopted the answers therein.
The counsel for the APC, Fagbemi, stated also that he had filed answers on behalf of his client to the pre-hearing questions of the court.
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