Atiku’s Move to Counter APC’s Request to Void Petition Stalls Hearing

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Atiku Abubakar

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The prehearing session in the petition filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari was stalled on Wednesday to enable the petitioners respond to the bid by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to void the petition.

It was learnt that Atiku and the PDP in a fresh motion are asking the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to halt the delivery of its ruling in a motion on notice filed by the APC.

The move, it was gathered, was predicated on the grounds that the tribunal had on June 11 allowed the APC to withdraw a motion in which the petitioners have already filed a counter affidavit and went on to adjourn ruling in the other motion they didn’t respond it.

Their argument was that if the court could allow the APC withdraw its motion which a counter affidavit had been filed then the court should equally allow them respond to the motion on notice which they didn’t respond to since the motion was withdrawn on the hearing date without prior notice.

The APC had in the motion on notice filed by its lead counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) on May 15, prayed the tribunal to void and strike out Atiku’s petition on various grounds of alleged irregularities and non-compliance with the Legal Practitioners Act.

When the motion was argued by Fagbemi, Atiku and PDP did not file a counter affidavit, prompting the tribunal to reserve ruling in the APC’s motion.

However, at Wednesday’s proceedings, the lead counsel to the petitioners, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), informed the tribunal that the petitioners have just received the response of the APC to their request asking the tribunal to stop delivery of ruling in the motion and would need time to respond on point of law.

The tribunal Chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, after listening to the short argument by the parties, adjourned further hearing till July 1.

The APC had on June 11, through Fagbemi prayed the tribunal to strike out Atiku’s petition and in the alternative strike out several paragraphs that were not supported by facts and laws.

Among others, Fagbemi prayed the tribunal to remove 10 states in the list of states where Atiku alleged electoral malpractices took place in the February 23 presidential election.

The grouse of APC were that the petitioners failed to disclose the specific polling units where the alleged infraction took place thereby making their claims imprecise, nebulous and vague.

Fagbemi also applied for an order of the tribunal to strike out paragraphs where allegations of thuggery, arrest, intimidation and coercion were made against Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police and several other individuals who were not joined as defenfants in their petition.

APC also applied that the claim by Atiku and the PDP that President Buhari was not educational qualified to stand for the presidential election be expunged from their petition because it is a pre-election matter which the tribunal has no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon.

Besides, APC also asked the tribunal to strike out the petition for failure to comply with mandatory provisions of paragraph 4 and 7 of the first schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 and section 134 of the 1999 Constitution.

The APC similarly faulted the petition for being incompetent and in gross violation of section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act and therefore urged that the petition be struck out together with the list of documents and list of witnesses to be relied upon by the petitioners.