Alex Enumah in Abuja
The pre-hearing session in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, was stalled Wednesday to enable the petitioners to respond to the bid by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to void his 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 learnt, was because the tribunal had on June 11 allowed the APC to withdraw a motion in which the petitioners had already filed a counter affidavit and went on to adjourn ruling in the other motion they did not respond to.
The argument of Atiku and PDP was that if the court could allow the APC to withdraw its motion, for which a counter affidavit had been filed, then the court should equally allow them respond to the motion on notice, which they did not respond to since the motion was withdrawn on the hearing date without prior notice.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, Mr. 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 Practitioner’s Act.
When the motion was argued by Fagbemi, Atiku and PDP did not file counter affidavit, prompting the tribunal to reserve ruling in the APC’s motion.
However, at yesterday’s proceedings, 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 arguments by the parties in the petition, adjourned further hearing till July 1.
The APC had on June 11, through Fagbemi, prayed the tribunal to strike out Atiku’s petition or 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 that electoral malpractices took place in the presidential election.
The grouse of APC was 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 order of the tribunal to strike out paragraphs where allegations of act of thuggery, arrest, intimidation and coercion were made against Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Nigeria Army, the Nigeria Police and several other individuals who were not joined as defendants in their petition.
APC also applied that the claim by Atiku and the PDP that Buhari was not educationally 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.
It similarly faulted the petition for being incompetent and for violating Sections 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioner’s 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.