By Uche Amunike
The Presidential Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja has postponed proceedings on the petition filed by the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, to challenge the result of the 2023 presidential election.
Note that this decision to postpone the proceedings was agreed on by all the parties concerned.
The 1st to 4th respondents in the petition are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, the Vice President-elect Kasshim Shettima and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Aa soon as proceedings kicked off by the presidential election tribunal, Peter Obi and the Labour Party informed the court that the parties had met and reached a decision to demand that the case is adjourned so as to enable all parties file and exchange necessary legal documents, as there were numerous processes and motions that were yet to be filed in the case.
According to Obi’s lead counsel, Dr Live Uzoukwu (SAN), adjourning the case would spearhead an expeditious hearing and determination of the case.
He also stated: ‘My Lords, we met and agreed that the matter should be adjourned till next week Wednesday, so that when we are coming back, we will be sure that the processes are ripe for hearing.’
‘We also agreed that before then, we will meet and take decision on documents that are not in contention and documents that are controversial.’
The lawyer representing INEC, A.B. Mahmood (SAN), on its part, informed the presidential election tribunal, that the parties indeed collectively agreed to seek an adjournment, after they conferred briefly on Wednesday afternoon.
The Counsel representing Tinubu and Shettima, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) also stated that the adjournment was important in order that when they come on Wednesday, all the applications would be ready for adoption.
In the same light, the counsel representing the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi stated that his clients strongly believed that the adjournment would help fasten the proceedings.
Having heard all the respondents, the five-member panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani agreed to the request to postpone the adjournment.
The court then requested that all respondents should state the core issues to be determined in the petition, after which it adjourned the matter for continuation if the pre-hearing session.
Peter Obi specifically petitioned that the court to declare Tinubu disqualified as he was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes that were cast at the election.
His petition was hinged on three grounds. According to him, as at the time of the election, Tinubu was not qualified to contest.
He also submitted that as at the time Senator Kashim Shettima became the Vice Presidential candidate, he was still nominated as the candidate of the APC for the Bornu Central senatorial election.
Furthermore, Peter Obi and the Labour Party also challenged Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the presidential election as he was previously fined $460,000 by the United States District Court, Northern Illinois, Eastern Division in case No: 93C 4483 for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.
They submitted that INEC acted in breach of its own regulations and guidelines, as the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act 2022.
They also contended that INEC during the course of the conduct of the election, were mandatorily expected to prescribe and use technological devices for the accreditation, verification, continuation and authentication of voters and their particulars as required in its regulations.
They prayed that the courts should declare Tinubu unqualified to contest the election and all votes recorded for him, seen as wasted votes as a result of that.
Their prayer: ‘That it be determined that based on the valid votes cast at the presidential election of 25th February, 2023, the 1st Petitioner scored the highest number of votes cast at the election and not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states of the federation and the FCT, Abuja, and ought to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election.’
‘An order directing the 1st Respondent to issue the Certificate of Return to the 1st Petitioner as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’
‘That it be determined that the Certificate of Return wrongly issued to the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent is null and void and be set aside.’
In a further alternative prayer, the petitioners sought an order ‘cancelling the presidential election conducted on 25th February 2023 and mandating the 1st Respondent to conduct a fresh election for the President, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’
Obi has also supported the request by the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar to have the day-to-day proceedings of the petitions court, as they seek to nullify the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the presidential election on live coverage.