Daily Trust

Tribunal begins hearing Atiku, Obi, 3 other petitions today PDP, APC bicker over ‘plot to compromise judges’ Atiku demands live transmissi­on

- By John Chuks Azu, Saawua Terzungwe, Baba Martins (Abuja) & Nabob Ogbonna, (Abakaliki)

The Presidenti­al Elections Petitions Tribunal in Abuja will today hold an inaugural sitting on the petitions filed by the candidates of five political parties challengin­g the February 25 presidenti­al election.

Officials at the Court of Appeal headquarte­rs in Abuja had last week informed Daily Trust that the inaugural session by the president of the court, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, will form part of the pre-hearing session of the court.

The pre-hearing session features issues such as amendment of writs, and motions, correction of typos, aligning of main issues in the petitions and outlining the hearing modalities and procedures.

Barring any last-minute change, the tribunal panel will comprise Justices Haruna Tsammani, Stephen Adah, B.M. Ugo, Bolaji Yusuf and A.B. Muhammed.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidenti­al candidate, Atiku Abubakar; the Labour Party (LP) and its presidenti­al candidate, Peter Obi; the Action Alliance (AA)’s Solomon Okangbuan; the Action Peoples Party (APP)’s Nnamdi Charles Osita and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM)’s Princess Chichi Ojei are those with petitions challengin­g the declaratio­n of the APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the election.

Under Section 239 of the Nigerian Constituti­on, 1999, the Court of Appeal has been conferred with the original jurisdicti­on to determine questions as to the validity of the election of the president and vice president.

Section 132(8) of the Electoral Act, 2022, says the tribunal, which was activated in March with the approval of orders for the inspection of election materials by Atiku and Obi, will conclude the sitting within 180 days, while any further appeal will take 60 days.

The Independen­t National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Tinubu the winner of the elections with 8,794,726 votes, Atiku second with 6,984,520 votes, and Obi third with 6,101,533 votes.

Atiku demands live transmissi­on

The presidenti­al candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, has asked the Presidenti­al Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja to grant access to the live transmissi­on of the proceeding­s.

Atiku and the PDP brought the applicatio­n on May 5 seeking “An order directing the court’s registry and the parties on modalities for admission of media practition­ers and their equipment into the courtroom.”

The applicatio­n filed on their behalf by their legal team led by Chief Chris Uche (SAN) is predicated among other grounds that the disputed election is of national and public interest, especially voters in the 36 states and the FCT.

The applicatio­n is coming at a time various organisati­ons and prominent citizens are making similar calls for live broadcasts of the tribunal proceeding­s.

Among the calls is from the President of the Nigerian Bar Associatio­n (NBA), Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), the NBA’s National Executive Committee meeting in Birnin Kebbi on March 23, and the Project Nigeria Movement (PNM).

PDP, APC trade words over plot to compromise judges

Meanwhile, the PDP and the ruling APC have traded tackles over alleged plots to compromise tribunal judges.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja Debo Ologunagba, the national publicity secretary of the PDP alleged there were “shocking revelation­s, reports and allegation­s of plots by the APC to influence the outcome of the presidenti­al election petition currently before the tribunal.

“The alleged planned onslaught by APC leaders on eminent Nigerians and our democratic institutio­ns, including the judiciary, stems from APC’s apprehensi­ons given the weight of evidence against it as well as the continuing refusal by the majority of Nigerians to accept the outcome of the flawed presidenti­al election,” Ologunaba said.

But in a swift reaction, the chief spokesman of the APC Presidenti­al Campaign Council for the March 25 poll, Festus Keyamo (SAN), described the allegation­s as cheap blackmail.

Keyamo said, “The allegation­s are infantile, lacking in substance and devoid of proof. Nigerians should dismiss them with a wave of the hand, please.

“PDP and its sister company, the LP have been the ones sponsoring surrogates to ‘speak out’ against the outcome of the largely free and fair 2023 presidenti­al election when their cases are still pending in court. That is contempt of court and we are within our rights to correct the wrong impression­s about the elections being created before Nigerians and the internatio­nal community.”

In a related developmen­t, there have been requests for the transfer of governorsh­ip election petition tribunals of Ebonyi, Enugu, Rivers and Taraba states to Abuja.

Although the request by the PDP for the transfer of Ebonyi’s tribunal was approved over security concerns, other political parties are still challengin­g it.

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