Tribunal Rejects HDP’s Application for Withdrawal of Petition against Buhari

  • Dismisses Buhari, INEC’s applications for dismissal of PDM’s Petition

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Respite came the way of the candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Chief Ambrose Owuru, following yesterday’s dismissal of an application seeking to strike out the name of the party from the petition before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja.

Chairman of the five-member presidential election panel, Justice Mohammed Garba, in a ruling yesterday dismissed the application for lacking merit.

Owuru, who contested the February 23 presidential election under the platform of the HDP, is challenging the emergence of Buhari as winner of the presidential poll.

Their petition dated March 7 and marked: PEPT/001/2019 is seeking the nullification of President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the poll on grounds of alleged irregularities and violation of the 1999 Constitution as well as the Electoral Act.

However, few days after the panel commenced sitting, one Poland Tapre, who claimed to be the chairman of the HDP, announced appearance for the party and informed the tribunal of the HDP’s intention to withdraw from the petition, claiming that the 1st petitioner, Owuru did not obtain the consent of the party before filing the petition.

In the application argued by his lawyer, Tony Agbonlahor, the factional chairman told the tribunal that Owuru, who flew the flag of the HDP in the presidential election, has been on suspension as chairman since August, 2018, adding that the leadership of the party did not authorise the inclusion of the HDP as joint petitioner in matter.

However, Owuru in his submission made by his lawyer, Chukwuemeka Njoku, urged the tribunal to ignore Poland on the grounds that he was an impostor, and stranger seeking to disrupt the hearing of the petitioners’ petition, and should accordingly be dismissed.

Delivering ruling in the motion yesterday, the tribunal in a unanimous decision, held that from the evidence before it, Owuru who is the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential election is the authentic Chairman and leader of the HDP.

The tribunal further held that in election matters, the party cannot be easily separated from its candidate, which made the HDP a necessary party in the suit.

In another development, the tribunal also dismissed two separate applications seeking the dismissal of the petition of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) against the outcome of the February 23 presidential election, which produced President Buhari as winner.

The candidate of the PDM, Aminchi Habu and the PDM are challenging their exclusion from the February 23 presidential election.

They are asking the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential poll and conduct a fresh one which would include them.

However, both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and President Buhari, in response to the petition, had urged the tribunal to dismiss the PDM’s petition on the grounds of non-compliance with section 18(1) of the 1st Schedule of the Electoral Act.

In their separate motions, counsel to INEC and Buhari, Yunus Usman (SAN) and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), claimed that the petitioners failed to apply for pre-hearing notice of their petition within the seven days required by law.

Usman in his submission said the application not filed within time is deemed to have been abandoned and asked the tribunal to dismiss the

But the petitioners in opposing the motions claimed that the application was made well within the time provided by law.

Counsel to the petitioners, Aliyu Lemu, accordingly urged the tribunal to dismiss the motions for being frivolous and lacking merit.

Delivering ruling, the tribunal however dismissed the two applications for being unmeritorous.

The panel held that findings from its own record showed that the application of petitioners was actually made a day after pleadings were closed in the petition.

The tribunal held that pleadings closed on April 29 with the last reply of the 1st respondent, while the petitioners had applied for the notice of pre-hearing on April 30, “well within the 7 days provided by law”