Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Legal hostilities will resume on July 1 before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in a fresh application brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, seeking to quash the proceeding of the tribunal held on June 11.
In the said application, Atiku and his party urged the Justice Mohammed Garba led five-member tribunal to review its proceeding conducted on June 11 with regards to a motion the All Progressives Congress (APC) filed to strike out certain paragraphs of the petition they filed against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Related: Tribunal reserves ruling on application seeking withdrawal of HDP’s petition against Buhari
The tribunal had on the said date struck out a motion the APC filed on May 14, which applied for some paragraphs of the petition to be struck out.
The motion was struck out after it was withdrawn by counsel to the APC Prince Lateef Fagbemi.
Immediately after the motion was struck out, Fagbemi drew the attention of the tribunal to another similar application the party also filed on May 14.
He urged the tribunal to grant the application, noting that the petitioners failed to file any counter-affidavit to oppose it.
In his reaction, lead counsel to the petitioners Dr Livy Uzoukwu said he had actually filed a counter-affidavit in opposition to the first motion that was withdrawn by the APC which was cited as the 3rd Respondent in the petition.
Uzoukwu argued that since the APC filed two similar motions on the same subject matter, he filed a preliminary objection for the tribunal to dismiss them for constituting an abuse of court process, instead of filing a second counter-affidavit.
When hearing in the petition resumed, counsel to the petitioners Chief Chris Uche told the tribunal that they brought a motion to set aside the entire proceeding where the 3rd Respondent (APC) was allowed to withdraw the motion they said was filed in abuse of the judicial process.
The petitioners are contending that the tribunal ought to have heard their preliminary objection before it struck out APC’s first motion.
Uche who noted that the matter was originally adjourned for continuation of pre-hearing session on the petition, however, prayed the tribunal to grant him a short adjournment to enable him file a reply to counter-affidavits that both President Buhari and the APC filed to oppose the fresh motion.
“Unfortunately, we were just served this morning in court with a counter-affidavit and written address of the 2nd Respondent, while the 3rd Respondent served us yesterday,” he stated.
“It is our desire to file our reply on points of law to these two processes.
“We will be requiring time to react, since we are still within a day or two to do so.”
Nevertheless, he urged the tribunal to proceed with other aspects of the pre-hearing session owing to the exigency of time within which the petition must be heard and determined.
“This is a very time sensitive matter. Rather than spending the entire day on adjournment, we can take an hour to streamline other aspects of the pre-hearing session.
“My lord can see how many witnesses we intend to call. So much time has already been spent and we want to maximise what he have left.
“The matter of this nature is one of utmost urgency,” Uche added.
He argued that paragraph 18 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010, did not stipulate that the pre-hearing session should not continue until all pending applications are decided.
However, counsels to INEC, President Buhari and APC, Mr Yunus Usman Uztaz, Yusuf Alli and Prince Fagbemi, respectively, maintained that the petitioners had no right to complain over a self-inflicted predicament.
“The only way for us to move forward is for the petitioners to withdraw the application. We have also suggested to counsel to the petitioners that, if the court will agree, we will not oppose his oral submissions on points of law,” Alli submitted.
“My lords, they brought all these upon themselves, so they cannot complain,” INEC’s counsel Uztaz added.
After it had listened to all the parties, the Justice Garba led panel said it would grant the adjournment request made by the petitioners. The tribunal, thereafter, fixed July 1 for continuation of pre-hearing session on the petition marked CA/PEPC/002/2019.