- Orders Obi to Prove Case in 3 Weeks
THE Justice Haruna Tsammani-led Presidential Election Petition Court on Tuesday in Abuja ordered the merger of the cases instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Labour Party (LP), its presidential flagbearer, Mr Peter Obi and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) challenging the victory of APC’s Bola Tinubu at the February 25th presidential election.
The five-member panel of justices of the Court of Appeal cited the essence of time as basis for the decision.
According to the law, the court has 180 days from the time the three petitions were filed in mid-March to conclude the hearing and deliver judgement.
In the ruling detailing a report of the court’s pre-hearing session on Obi and his party’s petition on Tuesday, the court ordered a consolidation of the three pending petitions.
Citing Paragraph 50 of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act 2022, Justice Tsammani held that the interest of justice would be served by a merger of the petitions. “The justice of these petitions demands that this petition be consolidated,” Justice Tsammani declared, as he ordered Obi and his party to prove their case within three weeks as against the six weeks they prayed for during the pre-hearing sessions.
All petitioners and respondents are obliged to abide by the court’s decision consolidating the petitions.
At Monday’s sitting of the court, Justice Tsammani had stated that the court is obliged to conclude proceedings and give judgment on all pending suits before or by September 16, 2023.
Responding to the court’s concerns, one of Obi’s counsel, Prof Awa Kalu, SAN reduced the seven weeks to six for his client to present 50 witnesses in aid of their case against Tinubu. He however left the question on consolidation of the petitions to the court’s discretion.
Atiku’s counsel, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, as well as INEC’s counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, also urged the court to use its discretion to determine the consolidation of the petitions.
However, Tinubu’s counsel, Akin Olujimi, SAN, disagreed with the consolidation of the petitions. Olujimi, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, argued that the interest of justice would not be served as the proceedings would be “unwieldy.”
While it slated May 30, 2023 to commence hearing of Obi’s substantive petition with proceedings expected to end on June 23, 2023, the court stressed that it would conduct proceedings on a day-to-day basis from Mondays to Saturdays.
Following Obi’s presentation, the respondents in the petition – INEC, APC, Tinubu and Shettima, have five days each to present their defence.
The petitioners have 30 minutes each to lead or cross-examine their, or adverse parties’ star witnesses. The other witnesses have 20 minutes each to testify and the legal team of the adverse parties will have five minutes each for re-examining them.
As at press time, the court had not given its report on Atiku and APM’s pre-hearing sessions of their petitions.