The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja yesterday fixed today for hearing of six pending applications filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and its party against the February 23 presidential election which produced President Muhammadu Buhari.
The tribunal will also hear four different applications filed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), three applications filed by Buhari and another three applications filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In all, the panel will hear 16 applications concerning the presidential election. Why six applications are challenging the election of Buhari, 10 applications are challenging the petition filed by Atiku and the PDP.
Meanwhile, another Chairman has been appointed to replace the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa on the panel.
The new Chairman, Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba, replaced Justice Bulkachuwa who disqualified herself based on a petition written by Atiku and the PDP on ground that Bulkachuwa’s husband, a Senator-elect and her son are members of the APC.
Addressing the court, counsel to Atiku, Livy Izoukwu (SAN) said he has six different applications that are pending before the tribunal.
In his own submission, counsel to INEC, Usman, said he had four different applications pending before the tribunal.
“The first application filed on April 23 is praying the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of compliance with paragraph 18(1) of the Electoral Act. The second application filed on April 24 is praying the tribunal to strike out some paragraphs in the petition and the entire petition.
“The third one was filed on May 25 and it is praying the court to bring an application seeking to hear the opposition during pre-hearing session.
“The fourth application is praying the tribunal to strike out the petition for failing to join Vice President Yemi Oshibajo,” Usman said.
For counsel to Buhari, Olanipekun informed the court that he filed three applications.
He added that the first application, filed on May 14, is praying the tribunal for dismissal of the entire petition and that second application, also filed on May 14, is praying the tribunal to strike out the reply filed by the petitioners to his reply.
The third application, also dated May 14, is praying for a slight amendment in his respondent’s reply.
Arguing for APC, Fagbemi informed the tribunal that he filed three applications.
The first and second applications were filed on May 14. They are essentially asking for the striking out of the petition or certain paragraphs in the petition.
At the sitting of the tribunal yesterday, Justice Garba, who led the other four members of the panel, pleaded with counsel in the petition to cooperate with the panel in order to have an expeditious hearing and determination of the petitions.
According to him, “What we are doing today is a call over, to identify the applications before the tribunal and schedule dates for hearing. I thereby call on the parties and counsel to cooperate with the panel. We are already half way into the stipulated time provided by the Electoral Act to hear and dispense these petitions. Let us make use of the remaining days judiciously.”
Immediately after that, the tribunal called the petition filed by Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Owuru, to identify the applications they have before the court.
There was, however, a mild drama as another counsel announced appearance for the HDP, which is the second petitioner, after a counsel had earlier announced appearance for the two petitioners.
The former counsel, Wilson Igwedibia, had told the court that he is appearing for the two petitioners and that he has a motion of notice for the amendment of the petition filed on May 14.
The new counsel, who announced appearance for HDP, informed the tribunal that the party briefed him to file an application withdrawing from the petition against Buhari.
Miffed by the development, the tribunal called on the national chairman of the party, Poland Aweni-Tabra, who was present in court to identify the party’s counsel.
Addressing the tribunal, Tabra disowned Igwedibia, adding that the party has engaged another counsel to file a notice of withdrawal from the petition.
In a similar vein, the tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the Coalition For Change (C4C) and its presidential candidate, Geff Chizee Ojinka, challenging the election of Buhari.
The dismissal was sequel to an application for withdrawal brought by counsel to the petitioners, Obed Agu.
Though the petitioners did not disclose the reason behind their action, they urged the tribunal to strike out their case.
President Buhari’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that of INEC, Yunuz Uztaz (SAN), and that of APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) did not oppose the application.
Consequently, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Garba, the tribunal dismissed the petition, even as it refrained from awarding any cost against the petitioners.
In a similar vein, the tribunal fixed June 17 to hear all the applications filed by the People Democratic Movement (PDM) and its presidential candidate, Pastor Amichi Abu.
With dismissal of C4C’s petition, the tribunal is left with three petitions challenging the election of Buhari.