Godwin Tsa, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, lost their separate bids to have the petition filed by the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) and its presidential candidate in February 23, 2019 election, Pastor Haminchi Habu, dismissed by the presidential election petition tribunal.
The PDM and Habu are challenging the victory of President Buhari and his political platform, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the February 23 election.
However, President Buhari and the INEC, filed their separate motions urging the election tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.
They predicated the applications on the grounds that the petitioners did not comply with the provisions of paragraph 18(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act.
Specifically, it is the contention of the electoral body that the petitioners had violated the said provisions of the Electoral Act by failing to apply for the pre-hearing notice within seven days after the close of pleadings marked by the filing of their final replies to the respondents’ replies to the petition.
But dismissing the applications in separate rulings on Thursday, the Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal unanimously, held that the petitioners did file their application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice within the time stipulated by law.
Justice Garba who read the lead ruling, held that the pleadings were closed on April 20, 2019, when the petitioners filed their reply to the last-received reply of the 2nd respondent (Buhari) to the petition.
He held that therefore, the application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice filed by the petitioners on April 30, was within the seven days period stipulated by law and deemed to be proper.
He dismissed the applications by INEC and Buhari for lacking in merit.
The tribunal, however, in another ruling dismissed an application by the petitioners seeking that judgment be delivered in their favour on the grounds of alleged tardiness of the respondents – INEC, Buhari, and APC.