Amid tight security, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) commenced sitting, yesterday, with warning to all parties to avoid delay tactics and technicalities that could derail speedy dispensation of the five petitions before it.
Chairman of the five-member tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsamani, gave the admonition in his inaugural speech to officially kickstart the pre-hearing session.
The tribunal has 180 day to conclude its assignment.
Other members of the panel are Justice Stephen Adah, Justice Monsurat O. Bolaji Yusuf, Boloukuromo Moses Ugo and Justice Abba Mohammed.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) polled 8,794,726 votes to win the election. Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came second with 6,984,520 votes while Peter Obi polled 6,101,533 votes. Not satisfied with the outcome, Atiku and Obi had approached the tribunal to annul Tinubu’s victory.
The court pre-hearing resumed at about 9:15 am with an opening remark by Justice Tsammani, who assured that everyone would be satisfied with the verdict at the end of the case and advised lawyers against frivolous applications that could delay proceedings at the court.
“As we commence hearing of the petitions, let us avoid making sensational comments. Let us consider the safety and interest of the country, that is paramount.
“We should avoid unnecessary time wasting applications and objections so that we can look at substance of the case rather than unnecessary technicalities.
“Let us cooperate with each other so that every one will be satisfied that justice has been done.”
Lead counsel to the various parties pledged their cooperation with the tribunal towards achieving the justice in the petitions before it.
Lawyer for the President-elect, Chief Wole Olanipekun, assured the court of the maximum corporation of his team, saying there was need for the matter to be determined without recourse to unnecessary technicalities.
In like manner, head of the team of lawyers representing the presidential candidate of the PDP and Atiku, Chief Chris Uche, said they would do everything possible to assist the court to do justice.
On his part, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, who is representing the LP and its candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, noted that the petitions were of great public interest, saying “at the end of the day, I am very confident that the petitions will impact on Nigeria’s jurisprudence and constitutionalism. We will do everything possible to assist your Lordships.”
INEC, through its lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, expressed confidence of the electoral body on the ability of the court to do justice on all the petitions before it.
“My lords, we are confident that at the end of the day, justice will be done,” Mahmood, stated.
Three petitions were scheduled for hearing at the preliminary session of the tribunal – petitions by Action Alliance (AA) marked: CA/PEPC/01/2023; Action Peoples Party (APP) marked: CA/PEPC/02/2023 and Peter Obi & Labour Party (LP) marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023.
Highlight of the session was the withdrawal of the petition filed by the AA against INEC and Tinubu of APC. Chief Oba Maduabuchi, who led the party’s legal team had applied to discontinue further proceedings in the petition. The senior lawyer told the court that a withdrawal notice to that effect was filed on May 3. Justice Tsamani consequently dismissed the petition after all the respondents did not object for the withdrawal.
Other petitions slated for the pre-hearing session are those of the Action Peoples Party (APP) which has Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as three respondents.The opening proceedings was witnessed by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State (who represented the APC), Mr. Obi, and chieftains of various parties.