Presidential Election Petition Court – Court Dismisses AA’s Petition Against Tinubu, Atiku Requests Live Broadcast Of Tribunal.
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) commenced hearing on one of the presidential election petitions on Monday. During its first sitting, the PEPC dismissed the petition filed by the Action Alliance (AA) and Solomon Okanigbuan, who had challenged the victory of Bola Tinubu in the February 25 presidential election.
The dismissal came after the petitioners formally withdrew their petition. The AA and its presidential candidate were among the five parties seeking to cancel the recent presidential election.
Earlier today, the Court of Appeal, which is based in Abuja, announced the identities of the five judges who will preside over the 2023 Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC). The panel comprises four male and one female senior judge: Justice Stephen Adah, Justice Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf, Justice Moses Ugo, and Justice Abba Mohammed.
The panel will be led by Justice Haruna Tsammani. The Secretary of the PEPC, Mrs Josephine Ekperobe, shared the names before the court’s first hearing began.
As anticipated, the five-member panel will be responsible for deciding the outcome of the five petitions submitted by different groups contesting Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory in the February 25th presidential election under the APC.
Justice Tsammani cautioned the petitioners, the public, and the media against making sensational statements that could impact the matters before the PEPC and potentially harm the country’s security. The presiding justice requested the bar’s comprehension and collaboration while ensuring that the bench would be impartial to all parties.
Several other groups filed petitions contesting Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory in the February 25th presidential election under the APC.
These groups include Action People’s Party (APP), with petition number CA/PEPC/02/2023; LP and their presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, with suit number CA/PEPC/03/2023; Allied People’s Movement (APM) and their presidential candidate, Princess ChiChi Ojei, with a suit, marked CA/PEPC/04/2023, and PDP and their presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, with suit number CA/PEPC/05/203.
With the exception of AA, the other petitioners contested the results of the February 25th presidential election that declared Tinubu as the president-elect. They claimed that there were significant violations of electoral laws, corrupt practices and that Tinubu and his party were not qualified to participate in the election.
In AA’s petition (CA/PEPC/01/2023), they requested that the court nullify the presidential election because their candidate’s name, Solomon Okagbuan, was left out of INEC’s list of presidential candidates.
Okagbuan and AA were the ones who filed the petition, while the defendants were INEC, APC, Tinubu, and Hamza Al-Mustapha, who was a factional presidential candidate of AA. INEC had initially recognized Al-Mustapha as the AA candidate until the Supreme Court ruled against it shortly before the presidential election. This led to Okagbuan’s petition.
Okagbuan was supported by Chief Adekunle Omoaje’s faction, while Al Mustapha was backed by Mr Kenneth Udeze’s faction. The petition from Omoaje’s group was filed in March by their legal representative, Chief Oba Maduabuchi, SAN. However, on May 3, a Notice of Withdrawal was filed.
During the hearing, Maduabuchi announced that he was representing AA, but before other parties could indicate their presence, another lawyer, Mr Maliki Nwaekpe, rose to announce that he was also representing the same AA.
Nwaekpe surprised Maduabuchi, and others present in court by introducing himself as an applicant who wanted to withdraw AA’s petition. Maduabuchi responded by informing the court that he was the person who filed the petition and that Nwaekpe was a stranger who was not recognized by AA.
He also stated that the faction Nwaekpe claimed to represent had been declared unlawful members of AA in two different judgments by the Court of Appeal.
However, Nwaekpe persisted in his claim that AA had not authorized anyone to file the petition and therefore requested to withdraw it. The court was attempting to resolve the matter of who was the legitimate representative of AA in the case when Maduabuchi stated that he was the one who filed the petition and had also applied to withdraw it.
Justice Haruna Tsammani, along with four other justices, ruled that since both lawyers were seeking the same outcome, Nwaekpe’s appearance should be disregarded and instructed Maduabuchi to proceed with the Notice of Withdrawal dated May 3.
Maduabuchi requested the court to grant an order for withdrawal and also requested the dismissal of the same. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN representing INEC, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN representing Tinubu, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN representing APC, and Mohammed Sanni representing Al-Mustapha did not oppose the request for withdrawal of the petition.
Tsammani issued a brief judgment saying, “In the absence of any objection to the withdrawal of the petition, the application is hereby granted. The petition with suit number CA/PEPC/01/2023 is hereby dismissed.”
Tsammani instructed the lawyers to convene a meeting to resolve any ambiguities in their respective processes in the APC and LP petitions before the next adjournment. He also urged the parties to work towards reaching an agreement on the applications to be made to the court and the issues to be determined.
The APP petition was adjourned to Wednesday at 9 am, while the LP petition was scheduled for 2 pm on the same day for the continuation of pre-hearing.
The panel will hear the petitions of APM and PDP today, and the parties involved are required to present their individual processes and collaborate for a smoother and faster delivery of justice.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Atiku and PDP were anticipated to bring up a new application they submitted, which requests permission from the court to allow live broadcasting of the daily proceedings of their petition on television stations.
On May 5, Atiku and PDP applied to the tribunal, which was filed on May 8. They requested the tribunal issue an order to direct the court’s registry and parties involved on how media practitioners and their equipment can be admitted into the courtroom.
The team of lawyers led by Uche applied on behalf of Atiku and PDP. The application was based on several grounds, one of which was that the case before the court was a dispute over the result of the presidential election held on February 25, 2023.
This matter concerned the whole nation and the international community as it involved citizens and voters from all 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It was also a matter of public interest as it related to the workings of Nigeria’s electoral process.
Atiku and PDP argued that the case was a distinctive electoral dispute with a specific constitutional aspect, and therefore, it was a matter of public concern. Millions of Nigerian citizens and voters had a constitutional right to receive information about the case.
According to them, the court had the power to conduct proceedings in public and allow access to the public either physically or electronically, as it was an essential part of the court’s constitutional obligation.
The significant technological advancements in Nigeria and beyond, as well as the court’s adoption of electronic procedures and virtual hearings, make it appropriate to deviate from the usual rules and permit regulated broadcasting of the proceedings in this case.
This is consistent with the principle that justice should not only be done but also be seen to be done. The court has allowed televised proceedings before and doing so in this case will increase public confidence in the judicial system.