The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) has dismissed a petition challenging the victory recorded by President Muhammadu and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last presidential election.
The Coalition for Change (C4C) and its presidential candidate, Geff Chizee Ojinika, had filed the petition marked: CA/PEPTL/003/2019, in which they complained of unlawful exclusion or misrepresentation and sought the cancellation of the election and the conduct of a fresh presidential election.
The petitioners had complained that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) printed CC and against its actual acronym of C4C, a development, they claimed worked to their disadvantage.
At the hearing of the petition on Monday, their lawyer, Obed Agu stunned all when he announced that the petitioners were no longer interested in prosecuting the petition.
Agu applied to withdraw the petition, an application the tribunal granted, in the absence of any objection from lawyers to other parties to the petition.
The tribunal, now headed by Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba (the Presiding Justice of Lagos division of the Court of Appeal), proceeded to dismiss the petition.
With the dismissal of the petition by the C4C and Ojinika, the tribunal is now left with three petitions.
They are those filed by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and Ambrose Owuru, who claimed to be the party’s presidential candidate ( marked: CA/PEPC/001/2019); the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar (CA/PEPC/001/2019); and the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) and Pastor Aminchi Habu, listed as the party’s presidential candidate (CA/PEPC/004/2019).
When the petition by the HDP was called, a man, who claimed to be the party’s National Chairman, Tapre Poland stood up and told the tribunal that the party did not authorise the filing of the petition.
Poland particularly disowned the petition filed in the name of his party.
He agreed with another lawyer, who he said the party sent to the tribunal to discontinue the petition.
Justice Garba adjourned further proceedings in the HDP petition to June 13 while that of the PDM was fixed for June 17 this year.
On the petition by Atiku and the APC, the judge adjourned till Tuesday for the hearing of all pending motions. He announced that the tribunal will henceforth, sit at 9.30 am as against the earlier sitting time of 10am.
Agu told journalists, after the tribunal’s sitting his client’s decision to withdraw the petition was that of the party, taken at its last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.
“I am not a member of the party’s NEC. The decision to withdraw the petition was taken at the party’s highest decision-making level. I was only instructed give effect to the decision,” Agu said.
Earlier at the commencement of proceedings, Justice Garba sought the cooperation of parties to the petitions before the tribunal.
He noted that time was of the essence, but assured that, with the cooperation of parties, the panel could make the best use of the time left.
“I will like to renew the call for the fullest cooperation of parties and their respective counsel that will be appearing in the petitions before the Presidential Election Petitions Court.
“We are aware of the constraint of time that has been imposed on the court by both the Constitution and the Electoral Act for the hearing and determination of the petitions.
“We are also aware that we have almost gone halfway of the time we have for the hearing and determination of the petitions,” Garba said.
Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), who led the legal team of Atiku and the PDP, assured that his team would accord the panel “the necessary cooperation to ensure that the petition is expeditiously heard.”
Lead lawyer to President Buhari, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and lawyer to the INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN) also assured of the cooperation.
With Garba as the new Chairman, other members of the panel are Justices Abdul Aboki (Abuja division), Joseph Ikyegh (Benin division), Samuel Oseji (Lagos division) and Justice Peter Ige (Abuja division).
Some of the motions to be heard by the tribunal on Tuesday include the 16 filed in relation to the petition by Atiku and the PDP.
Six of the motions are by Atiku and the PDP, while the remaining 10 were filed by the respondents.
Seven of the 10 motions by the respondents are seeking the dismissal or striking out of the petition.
The remaining three are for permission to amend their papers and to bring their applications up at the pre-hearing session.