Presidential election petition: Proceeding starts as tribunal over rules Buhari, APC – Independent Observers

Presidential election petition: Proceeding starts as tribunal over rules Buhari, APC

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By Andy Chukwu

The Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have opened trial at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja in respect of their petition challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari, at the February 23, 2019 poll.

The petitioners’ legal team led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), on Thursday, opened the trial by tendering electoral document, Form EC8C for Agaie Local Government Area of Niger State.

The proceeding started after the five-man tribunal’s dismissal of the respondents’ earlier request for the suspension of the trial on Thursday.

The respondents comprising the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had earlier called for the suspension of the proceedings on the grounds of alleged late filing and serving of the petitioners’ schedule of documents on them shortly before sitting began on Thursday.

But ruling, the five-man bench led by Justice Mohammed Garba, dismissed the respondents’ request, saying that the agreements reached between the parties at the pre-hearing session concluded earlier on Wednesday, had stipulated that trial would commence on Thursday.

Justice Garba, who delivered the ruling of the tribunal, added that the agreement reached which was adopted at the tribunal’s directive on Wednesday did also not make the service of the schedule of documents a condition-precedent for the commencement of trial.

He added that the respondents could also not validly claimed to have been ambushed by the alleged late filing of the schedule since the documents listed in it had been referenced in the petition filed and served on the respondents months ago.

Shortly after the petitioners’ lawyer, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), indicated to the tribunal that he was starting the petitioners’ case with Niger State, Buhari’s counsel, Mike Igbokwe (SAN), had earlier call for a halt of the proceedings. He complained that he was only served with the petitioners’ schedule of documents shortly before the commencement of sitting.

This, he said, was contrary to the agreement that the schedule would be filed and served far ahead of proceedings.

Counsel for INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), and the APC’s Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), also expressed the same misgivings.

They said the alleged late filing and serving of the same schedule was an ambush and called for the suspension of the trial to enable them to go through the schedule.

But Uzoukwu expressed surprise over the observation made by the respondents’ lawyers.

The tribunal has admitted the Form EC8C for Agaie Local Government Area of Niger State tendered by the petitioners as Exhibit P1.

After the Tribunal overruled a tendering which was opposed by the respondents’ lawyers, but as earlier agreed among the parties, the lawyers said they would give the reasons for their objection to the document at the final address stage. With the ruling, the petitioners’ lead counsel has asked to tender Forms EC8A and EC8B‎ (series of polling unit and ward results) in respect of the said local government area.

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