Leadership Tussle Stalls HDP’s Petition at Presidential Election Tribunal

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The hearing of the petition by Hope Democratic Party’s (HDP) against the outcome of the February 23 presidential election was yesterday stalled owing to confusion over the authentic petitioners before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja.

Both the HDP’s presidential candidate in the last general election, Ambrose Owuru and one Poland Awinitabre are currently laying claim to the chairmanship of the party, forcing the tribunal to adjourn the pre-hearing session in the party’s petition at the tribunal.

Owuru and the HDP are listed as first and second petitioners in the petition with number PEPT/001/2019 filed on March 7, 2019.

However, at the resumed pre-hearing of the petition yesterday, the tribunal was confronted with two applications filed on June 18, 2019 by a factional National Chairman of the party, Poland Awinitabre.

Awinitabre in the first application, wants the tribunal to strike out the name of the HDP from the petition, while in the second, he is seeking for a change of counsel representing the party at the tribunal.

On two occasions, Awinitabre had openly disowned counsel for the HDP and its presidential candidate, Oworu.

When the petition was called, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Mohammed Garba, drew the attention of counsel to the various parties to the pending applications.

But, while counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yunus Usman (SAN), that of President Buhari, Osaro Eghobamien (SAN) and Charles Edosamwam (SAN) all claimed knowledge of the applications, counsel to Oworu, and the HDP, Oliver Eya said he was not aware of the said applications.

Eya asked the tribunal to disregard the applications as they did not emanate from his clients.

He specifically told the tribunal that the applications were filed by some busy bodies and meddlesome interlopers who are not known to the petitioners.

This was after acknowledging that the two applications were served on him in court.

However, counsel to the APC, Edosamwam, drew the attention of the tribunal to a counter affidavit filed by the presidential candidate of HDP and the first petitioner, Oworu against the two applications.

Responding, Justice Garba said since the applications have become part of the process in the tribunal’s file, it is only pertinent to hear them.

Meanwhile, Eya applied that since the applications were served on him in court, he needed time to respond to them.

In his short ruling, the tribunal held that “in view of the fact that the applications were served on Eya this morning, his request is hereby granted.”

The tribunal consequently adjourned to June 25, 2019 for hearing on the applications.

HDP, one of the parties that participated in the last general election conducted by INEC, in the petition, insisted that the February 23 poll was unknown to law and should be invalidated by the tribunal.

In a fresh motion filed by the party’s counsel, Ezechukwu Ifeanyi, the HDP insisted that the February 23 poll was never validly held by INEC and cannot produce any valid result or returns recognisable by law.