Presidential Tribunal: Drama as HDP Factional Chairman Disowns Petition against Buhari

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

Tuesday’s proceedings of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) involving the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) again turned out to be dramatic as factional chairman of the party, Roland Tapre, urged the court to strike out the name of the second petitioner, HDP from the petition against President Muhammadu Buhari.

Tapre, through his lawyer, Tony Eseigbe, had continued to insist that the HDP was not consulted before the first petitioner and presidential candidate of the HDP in the last general election, Ambrose Owuru, filed petition on his behalf and that of the HDP against the election of President Buhari.

But, Owuru, who for the first time since the tribunal commenced sitting, was represented in court, by Anwal Abdullahi, National Financial Secretary of the HDP, insisted that the factional chairman, Tapre, and others laying claim to the leadership of the party, were impostors and fugitives from the law who are bent on frustrating efforts of the HDP and its presidential candidate.

Tapre had in a motion filed on June 18, 2019, prayed the tribunal to strike out the name of the HDP from the petition on the grounds that the party was not consulted before the petition was filed.

He also prayed the tribunal for a change of counsel, adding that the party at no time engaged anyone except Eseigbe to act on their behalf.

However, in the counter affidavit filed in opposition to the notice to strike out the name of the HDP as joint petitioner and change of counsel, Chief Owuru insisted that Tapre and others remain stranger to the petition and had no basis or authority to interfere in the duly filed joint and certified petition against the outcome of the February 23 presidential poll.

In the counter affidavit dated June 24 and deposed to by Anwal Abdullahi, the first respondent told the tribunal that the factional chairman and his supporters represent a sacked and expelled interest in Bayelsa State chapter of the HDP, “Who have made it their business to avail themselves to petitioners opponents to assist to disrupt the petitioners political activities and programmes since 2016”.

When the case was called, Tapre’s lawyer, Tony Agbonlahor, pleaded with the tribunal to remove the HDP’s name from the petition because the party had no intention of challenging the outcome of the presidential poll.

In his reply, Owuru’s counsel, Chukwunonyerem Njoku, alleged that the factional chairman was a sponsored agent sent to the tribunal to frustrate the speedy hearing of the petition of his client against Buhari.

Njoku pleaded with the Tribunal to award a punitive cost of N100m against the factional chairman for acting as busy body and meddlesome interloper in the petition.

Lawyers to Buhari, INEC and APC in their responses however did not oppose the motion to strike out the name of the HDP from the petition.

Meanwhile, the tribunal chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, has reserved ruling on whether the tribunal will allow the name of the party to be removed or not from the petition.

Justice Garba said date for the ruling will be communicated to parties in the matter.

Ruling in another motion, the tribunal permitted the HDP presidential candidate, Owuru, to amend clerical errors in his petition but refused the request to call additional witnesses to testify against Buhari.

According to the chairman while the first amendment will not have any significant impact on the process, that of the second
would, adding that the 21 days allowed by law to file petition and list witnesses and their statements on oath had lapsed.