Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday commenced hearing in the petitions filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; his party, the PDP; and three other political parties and their presidential candidates against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and his party the All Progressives Congress (APC) with an appeal to litigants to shun actions that may put the panel in a negative light.
Atiku and three other presidential candidates are challenging the outcome of the February 23 presidential election in which President Buhari was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Chairman of the five-member panel, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who made the appeal, at the special sitting of the panel, specifically warned counsel and parties in the various petitions to avoid discussing daily proceedings of the tribunal in the media and other public space.
Bulkachuwa however warned that the tribunal would not hesitate to weild the big stick over anyone found culpable in that regard, adding that the task of the tribunal is a serious national assignment and must be seen as such by all.
The chairman, who stressed that no matter how an election was conducted, there are bound to be complaints, hence the establishment of the tribunal to give speedy hearing on such complaints.
Bulkachuwa disclosed that there are currently 786 petitions against the outcome of the 2019 general election, with Imo State having the highest number of 76.
The tribunal chairman assured Nigerians that the panel would be fair to all and would give equal time to all litigants in its efforts at ensuring that justice is done and done expeditiously in all the cases before it.
Responding, the counel in the matters promised to play by the rules and give maximum cooperation to the panel.
While Levi Ozoukwu (SAN) is leading the legal team of Atiku and the PDP, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) are leading that of Buhari and APC respectively.
Other members of the presidential panel include Justices Abdul Aboki, Samuel Osiji, Joseph Ikyegh and Peter Olabisi-Igeh.
The tribunal, in stating that proceedings would be on a daily basis, called the first case, the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and his presidential candidate, Chief Albert Owuru.