- Dismisses application to call additional witnesses
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday fixed Monday, July 22 for the commencement of hearing and trial of the petition challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Mohammed Garba, announced the date at the end of the pre-hearing session in the Hope Democratic Party’s (HDP) petition.
The court, while stating the rules for the hearing of the substantive petition, said petitioners shall have two days to present their case as well as the respondents.
The tribunal also allotted 10 minutes for examination, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination of witnesses, respectively.
The respondents shall have three days after the close of evidence to file their final addresses.
The petitioners shall have three days after the service of the respective final addresses to file their own final presentations.
The respondents shall also each have two days after the petitioners file their final address to file their replies on points of law.
Meanwhile, the panel also on Thursday in a unanimous ruling dismissed two applications filed by the HDP for being incompetent, lacking in merit and an abuse of court processes.
The first was an application filed by the petitioners seeking to amend their motion to reflect the statement of oath of the original witnesses to be called in support of their petition.
The tribunal, in dismissing the application, agreed with the respondents that the motion lacked merit and constitute an abuse of court processes.
The court, had on June 25, granted the request of the petitioners to carry out clerical correction in their processes before the tribunal but declined to allow them amend their witnesses statement on oath as well as call additional witnesses on the grounds that such amendment would affect the petition already filed before the tribunal.
Justice Garba said it was a misconception on the part of the petitioners that it granted their earlier application for the amendment to call additional witnesses.
While holding that no additional list of witnesses can be allowed to be brought in at this stage, the tribunal described the new application as a “surreptitious attempt to circumvent the earlier ruling of the court”.
“The current application is an abuse of court processes; it is lacking in merit, constitute an abuse of court processes and it is hereby dismissed,” the panel held.
The court also dismissed another application titled: ‘Notice to Contend’, filed by the petitioners on the grounds that the application was alien to the law.
The petitioners had in the application urged the tribunal to declare them winner of the presidential election on the basis of a referendum held on February 16, 2019 wherein they claimed over 50 million Nigerians voted in favour of the HDP and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Owuru.
The HDP is asking the court to nullify the 2019 presidential elections on the grounds that the federal government’s decision to postpone the election was “unconstitutional”.
Delivering ruling on the application, Justice Garba agreed with the submission of the counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yunus Usman, that the application is unknown to law and ought to be dismissed.
The panel stated that its task as defined by section 239(1) A of the constitution is election related and does not include referendum.
Accordingly, the panel held that the application falls short of election matter so the tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain the notice to contend.
The panel in addition said the subject matter of the application constitute a pre-election, which is outside the jurisdiction of the panel.
“Having regard to the defect of the notice to contend it ought to be dismissed. It appears to be alien to the law. It is not supported by any of the laws.
“The court will not engage in matters outside election issues.
“Process filed is an aberration, it is an abuse of court processes and it is hereby dismissed,” it said.