•Buhari allotted six days
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that they had proposed to call 400 witnesses or more to prove their petition challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari, and his All Progressives Congress (APC), at the February 23 poll, within 10 days.
The 10 days is less than the 14 days’ period prescribed under paragraph 16(3) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
But that was part of the agreement reached yesterday by all the parties to the petition on the modalities and structure for the hearing of the petition filed by Atiku and the PDP at the tribunal.
Among some of the propositions made, which is subject to the approval of the panel is that hearing in the substantive matter commences on Thursday, July 4.
Lead counsel to Atiku and PDP, Dr. Levy Uzuokwu (SAN), who spoke on behalf of all the lawyers in the matter, gave a summary of decisions reached by the parties.
He told the tribunal that all parties agreed that the petitioners instead of the 14 days allowed by law for them to call witnesses in the case would spend 10 days while the respondents, Buhari and the APC, would use six days.
On time to be allotted to each witness to be called, parties agreed on five minutes for ordinary witnesses and 10 minutes for their cross examination, while 10 minutes was agreed for star/expert/subpoenaed witnesses, 20 minutes for their cross examination and three minutes for their re-examination.
On the issue of documents, it was agreed that parties should indicate their objection if any at the point of tendering but address on the objection should be isolated from the main address.
They also agreed that all documents should be tendered from the bar, and that parties should list and exchange schedule of documents they intend to rely on in the petition.
In respect of final addresses, parties agreed that respondents should file their final addresses seven days after the close of evidence, petitioners five days, while three days is for reply on point of law.
Atiku and PDP are among three other petitioners challenging the outcome of the presidential poll that handed a second term to Buhari.
Some of the grounds on which the petition is anchored include substantive non-compliance with the electoral laws, intimidation, and suppression of voters in stronghold of opposition among others.
Atiku specifically claimed he won the presidential poll going by results obtained from a controversial central server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and as such the five man presidential panel should nullify the election of Buhari and declare winner in his stead.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has fixed Wednesday, July 3, for ruling in the pre-hearing application brought by Atiku, seeking to set aside the proceedings of June 11, 2019.
Justice Garba had earlier reserved ruling shortly after parties in the petition had argued their briefs but announced Wednesday at the end of the day’s proceedings.
After Atiku’s lawyer adopted his written address as his argument, counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), asked the tribunal to refuse the application on the grounds that records of the said proceedings have been transmitted to the Supreme Court.
Olanipekun submitted that since an appeal has been filed at the apex court on the same issues the petitioners cannot ask the court to look into the same issues.
Lead counsel to INEC, Mr. Yunus Usman (SAN), however, said although the commission did not file any brief, it objects to the application.
Similarly, APC’s lead counsel, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), also objected to the motion and agreed with the position of the president with the exception that the records of court have been transmitted to the apex court.
Fagbemi submitted that the tribunal can still look at the application but cannot grant it because the law is settled that if a preliminary objection is filed and not argued it is deemed to have been abandoned.
According to him, the petitioners filed a preliminary objection to their motion but failed to argue it on June 11, when the 3rd respondent (APC) moved its motion seeking to remove some paragraphs of the petitioners’ petition.
“Since they did not argue it, it can be deemed to have been abandoned,” Fagbemi said.