THE Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja on Thursday frowned at the legal team of the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, for delaying proceedings in his case challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the February 25, 2023 presidential polls.
The panel of five judges criticised the Obi’s legal team for failing to properly organise its schedule of documents for seamless tendering as exhibits.
This came barely a day after Obi’s legal team sought an adjournment of proceedings due to the ill health of one of its members.
At the resumed hearing of the petition on Thursday, the court frowned on the team’s inability to present its schedule of documents as specified during the pre-hearing stage. This led to the court abruptly stepping down the hearing for some minutes to enable the lawyers, led by Awa Kalu, a professor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to put its house in order.
After resuming from the short break, the panel insisted that the documents presented by a member of the petitioners’ legal team, Emeka Okpoko, also a SAN, still did not meet the specification prescribed at the pre-hearing stage.
This led to the judges asking Obi’s team to take an adjournment to put its house in order before returning to tender the documents.
Specifically, a member of the panel, Justice Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf, said the activities of the petitioners’ team were a waste of the court’s time.
“What we have done today is a waste of time. The poor way you have arranged the documents will cause confusion for both you and the court. At this stage, it is better for you to go back and rearrange those documents in a sequence to help yourselves and the court.”
Mr Kalu, however, prayed the court to allow his team to tender the documents they had rather than take an adjournment since they had already lost one day.
The court allowed the petitioners to proceed following the appeal, after which they said they would challenge the election results in 18 out of the 36 states.
The petitioners proceeded to tender certified true copies of electoral documents obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in six out of the 18 states whose results they are challenging.
Justice Haruna Tsammani, after that, adjourned further hearing in the petition until Friday
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the documents are mainly Forms EC8A, which are election results from polling units.
The documents were admitted as exhibits and marked appropriately by Justice Tsammani.
NAN also reports that INEC, who issued the documents to the petitioners, objected to all the documents being admitted in evidence. Kemi Pinheiro, a SAN, represented INEC.
Similarly, counsel for President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima, whose election is being challenged, are represented by Adebayo Adelodun, a SAN, and Afolabi Fashanu, respectively.
The lawyers opposed the admissibility of the electoral documents.
They, however, said they would give their reasons for objecting to the admissibility of the documents in their final addresses.
A list of the tendered and admitted documents includes Forms EC8A from 15 local government areas of Rivers, 23 local government areas of Benue, 18 in Cross River, 23 in Niger, 20 in Osun and 16 in Ekiti.
NAN reports that Mr Obi and his party are challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima on the grounds of electoral malpractices during the Feb. 25 presidential election. (NAN)