By Lami Ibrahim
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPC, sitting in Abuja has deferred further proceedings on the petition the candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr. Peter Obi, filed to challenge the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, to May 17.
The adjournment followed an agreement by all the parties in the matter.
Cited as 1st to 4th respondents in the petition are the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; the President-elect, Bola Tinubu; Vice-President-elect, Kashim Shettima, and All Progressives Congress, APC.
Obi and the LP had, immediately proceedings resumed on the matter, told the court that the parties met and agreed to ask for an adjournment to enable them to file and exchange necessary legal documents.
He told the court that there were many processes and motions yet to be filed in the matter.
Uzoukwu, SAN, maintained that the adjournment would enable an expeditious hearing and determination of the case.
“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,” Uzoukwu added.
On its part, INEC, through its lawyer, Mr. A. B. Mahmood (SAN), confirmed that the parties met and agreed to ask for an adjournment after a brief meeting they held on Wednesday afternoon.
Likewise, counsel representing Tinubu and Shettima, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said the adjournment was necessary “so that when we come on Wednesday all the applications will be ready for adoption,” he added.
Similarly, counsel for the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said his client believed that the adjournment would hasten the proceedings.
Meanwhile, after it had listened to all the parties, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel acceded to the adjournment request.
The court directed the parties to identify core issues to be determined in the petition.
It, thereafter, adjourned the matter for continuation of the pre-hearing session.
Specifically, the LP candidate, Obi, in his petition prayed the court to declare that Tinubu was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.
In the petition he hinged on three grounds, Obi insisted that at the time of the election Tinubu was not qualified to contest.
He argued that as at the time Tinubu’s running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, became the vice presidential candidate, he was still the nominated candidate of the APC for the Borno Central Senatorial election.
Obi and the LP further challenged Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the presidential election, alleging that he was previously fined $460,000 by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483, for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.
On the ground that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provision of Electoral Act, 2022, the petitioners argued that INEC acted in breach of its own regulations and guidelines.
The petitioners contended that the electoral body was, in the course of the conduct of the presidential poll, mandatorily required to prescribe and deploy technological devices for the accreditation, verification, continuation and authentication of voters and their particulars as contained in its Regulations.
Consequently, they prayed the court to not only hold that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election, but to also declare that all the votes recorded for him were wasted votes owing to his non-qualification/disqualification.
“That it be determined that on the basis of the remaining votes (after discountenancing the votes credited to the 2nd Respondent) the 1st Petitioner scored a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and had not less than 25% of the votes cast in at least 2/3 of the States of the Federation, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the 25th February 2023 presidential election.
“That it be determined that the 2nd Respondent having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the presidential election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on 25th February, 2023.
In the alternative, the petitioners want an order cancelling the election and compelling INEC to conduct a fresh election at which Tinubu, Shettima and the APC, listed as 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents, respectively, shall not participate.
They urged the court to declare that since Tinubu was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast in the election, therefore, his return as the winner of the presidential election, was unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.
“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”.
As well as “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.”
Meanwhile, Obi, on Wednesday, threw his weight behind the request by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for live-coverage of day-to-day proceedings on petitions seeking to nullify the declaration of Tinubu of the APC as winner of the presidential election.