By Uche Amunike
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has officially commenced hearing of all the petitions filed against the February 25th presidential election.
Leading the five-member panel, is Justice Haruna Tsammani, who announced the modalities of the proceedings, as soon as the court convened.
With him in the panel, are Justices Abba Mohammed, Stephen Adah, Boloukuromo Ugo and Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf.
Speaking, during his opening remark, Justice Tsammani informed the court that a total of five petitions were placed before them, among which were that of the Action Alliance (AA), Action Peoples Party (APP) Labour Party (LP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He further stated that the court would only take the first three petitions on the first day, (Monday) and adjourn to Wednesday. That of APM and PDP, he however explained, would be taken Tuesday and adjourned to Thursday.
He also solicited for understanding and cooperation from the bar during the trial. And assured them that the bench would be fair to everybody concerned, adding that they were aware of the importance of the cases before it.
The Presiding Justice particularly appealed to the bar to keep away from unnecessary time wasting, by avoiding unwarranted objections, stating that as lawyers, it was expedient for them to avoid making inflammatory statements, due to the importance of the cases before the court.
In response, the lawyers representing the different parties gave their assurances to the courts that they were willing and prepared to make the job of the panel easy
The first lawyer to speak was Chief Olanipekun (SAN). He gave every assurance that the lawyers were ready to cooperate with the presidential election petition tribunal to make sure that justice was delivered at the end of the day.
On his part, Chief Chris Uche, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, stated that the bar would do everything within their power to see that there was speedy disposal of the cases due to the enormous responsibility upon their shoulders.
Doctor Levi Ozoukwu, who is the Counsel representing the Labour Party and Mr. Peter Obi stated that ‘the bar was mindful of the public interest being generated by the case, which outcome, he said, would greatly impact on Nigeria’s jurisprudence as well as the constitution.’
He also gave the assurance that they would do everything possible to assist the presidential election petition tribunal to do justice in the matters.
In the same vein, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), represented by Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), stated that the bar was aware of the importance of the matter and pledged total support on their parts, so that justice will be done at the end of the day.
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, was in court to witness the day’s proceedings. Some of his party officials that accompanied him were suspended National Chairman, Julius Abure and former APGA Chairman as Senator-elect on the platform of the Labour Party, Chief Victor Umeh.
The Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, was also among other dignitaries that were present at the inaugural session.