Alex Enumah in Abuja
When the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja, resumes tomorrow, one of the motions billed for hearing is that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, seeking for an order of the tribunal to inspect materials used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the February 23 presidential election.
The tribunal would also listen to the application of the petitioners, asking for an extension of time to respond to some processes filed by INEC, President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Chairman of the five-member panel hearing the petition, Justice Mohammed Garba, fixed the date at the end of yesterday’s proceedings.
The tribunal, however, reserved ruling to a date to be communicated to parties in motions filed by the three respondents seeking to strike out or dismiss Atiku and PDP’s petition.
Atiku and the PDP had in March 2019, obtained an order of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to inspect materials used in the conduct of the presidential poll but was denied permission to carry out forensic audit on the materials and polling documents.
The three-man panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki, in his ruling, had held that such request for scanning, forensic analysis of the election materials should be brought before the tribunal.
At the resumed pre-hearing session yesterday, INEC, Buhari and the APC, who are the respondents in the case, urged the tribunal to strike out the petition of Atiku and the PDP for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
INEC in four different motions argued by its lead counsel, Mr. Yunus Usman (SAN), challenged the competence of the petition filed by Atiku and the PDP.
Usman prayed the tribunal to strike out the petition because of the failure of the petitioners to join Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the running mate to Buhari at the election as a party in the petition.
He said as co-winner of the election, Osinbajo was a necessary party and omitting his name in the petition was fatal to the petitioners’ case.
Usman further prayed the tribunal to strike out the petition because it is the duty of INEC to defend the electoral process, particularly, where the petition has failed to comply with paragraph 18 (1) of the first schedule of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.
Similarly, Buhari, who is the second respondent in the petition, urged the tribunal to strike out the entire petition for being fundamentally defective.
In his two motions argued by his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the president prayed the tribunal to alternatively strike out 18 itemised paragraphs of the petitioners’ reply to the respondent’s reply to the main petition for being defective.
On its part, the APC through its lead counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), filed two motions in which it prayed the tribunal to strike out Atiku and the PDP’s petition because the preliminary objection was not responded to by the petitioners.
Fagbemi, who had earlier withdrawn his first application filed on May 14, 2019, informed the court that the petitioners only replied and filed counter affidavit to the motion he had withdrawn.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to hold that his two other applications were unchallenged.
Responding, lead counsel to Atiku and the PDP, Dr. Levy Uzuokwu (SAN), orally applied to amend the heading of his response to the APC’s application that was struck out to apply to the two other APC’s applications.
He urged the tribunal to strike out APC’s objection to their petition.
Uzuokwu responding further to Fagbemi’s applications said, “I do not think that it is simple as my brother thought as we have joined issues on the application he sought to withdraw.”
Atiku and PDP’s lawyer also prayed the court to dismiss the three separate applications filed by Buhari for lacking in merit.
The counsel equally prayed the tribunal to strike out all INEC’s applications.
Meanwhile, the tribunal yesterday struck out two applications filed by INEC and APC after they were withdrawn by the two respondents.
Subsequently, Justice Garba adjourned till June 13 for continuation and hearing on two applications filed by the petitioners.