Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A major disagreement has forced the Supreme Court to stand down proceedings in the appeals filed by the People’s Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 presidential election.
The 15-minute stand-down by the apex court followed the rejection of the modality proposed by the panel to hear the appeals by counsel to the PDP and its candidate Atiku Abubakar, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN.
Immediately after the appeal was called, Dr Uzoukwu notified the seven-man panel headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Tanko Muhammad, on the pendency of seven separate appeals with respect to the case.
While six of the appeals were filed to challenge interlocutory decisions of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, the substantive appeal is seeking to set aside the final judgement the Justice Mohammed Garba-led panel delivered on September 11.
In some of the interlocutory appeals, the appellants had challenged the ruling of the Tribunal that struck out some paragraphs of the affidavit they filed to support the petition against the declaration of President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the presidential election.
Meanwhile, the parties disagreed after the CJN-led panel disclosed its intention to use the substantive appeal to determine the outcome of all the other appeals.
The CJN after counsel to the parties announced their appearance, noted that since all the appeals bordered on the same subject matter, he stressed that deciding them separately would amount to the duplicity of effort and multiplicity of the ruling.
Observation of the CJN was reechoed by other members of the panel, who took turns and canvassed the need for all the appeals to be consolidated.
While counsel to President Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and that of the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, said they were not opposed to the proposed morality, that of the appellants, Uzoukwu, SAN, prayed the court to allow him to adopt his processes in all the appeals.
Following a back-and-forth argument on the issue, the panel decided to go for a 15-minute break to allow the parties to reach a decision.
Other members of the judicial panel are Rhodes Bode-Vivour, Olukayode Ariwola, Inyang Okoro, Amiru Sanusi, Uwani Abajji and Ejembi Eko.
The panel, which started sitting around 9 am, have commenced hearing on the appeal.