President Bola Tinubu will on June 30, open his defence to all the petitions seeking to sack him from office.
This came to light as the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, disclosed that all three petitioners before it would close their case on Friday.
Those challenging the declaration of Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the presidential election held on February 25, are former Vice President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former Anambra State Governor and candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr Peter Obi, as well as Allied Peoples Movement, APM.
While Atiku and Obi are separately claiming that they won the presidential contest, the APM is praying the court to void all the votes that were scored by Tinubu “in view of his non-qualification.”
APM argued that the withdrawal of Mr Ibrahim Masari, who was initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC, invalidated Tinubu’s candidacy in view of Section 131(c) and 142 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
All petitioners are seeking the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC issued to Tinubu.
Meanwhile, whereas Atiku, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, told the court that he would invite 100 witnesses to prove his case, Obi said he would call 50 witnesses while the APM, which said its case was based on documentary evidence, said it would call only one witness to substantiate its case.
The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel had on May 23, consolidated all the petitions, even as it gave the litigants a period of three weeks to present their cases.
Meanwhile, though on the strength of a pre-hearing report that was issued by the panel, the petitioners were supposed to close their case on Tuesday, however, the court extended the period by two more days.
Already, Atiku has called 25 witnesses while Obi has so far called only seven witnesses and tendered many documentary exhibits before the court.
When the matter came up yesterday, Atiku’s lawyer, Uche, SAN, told the court that his client may call five more witnesses to have a round figure of 30 witnesses.
He stressed that some of the documents they seek to tender in the remaining days would take care of evidence of the remaining 70 witnesses.
Difficulty in getting documents from INEC
Nevertheless, Uche, SAN, lamented that in spite of the spirit of cooperation that the court had appealed for, INEC, still made it difficult for his client to get Certified True Copies, CTC, of documents he requested for.
According to him, getting documents from INEC was like demanding for weapons from an opponent in a war, adding that his client requested for Form EC8A series, which are polling unit results for all 36 states and the FCT but had got only 14 batches so far.
He told the court that the forms INEC made available to his team were equally not properly sorted out.
Even though the court initially stood down the matter for 10 minutes to allow for the sorting out of the documents, when the proceedings resumed, Atiku’s lawyer persuaded the court to adjourn the case to Wednesday to enable his team to prepare a schedule for ease of identification of the documents to be tendered in evidence.
else. There is nothing before us to show that the application was made to the RECs. We are not here to play by sentiments,” a member of the panel chided Uzoukwu, SAN.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lawrence Bayode, a Deputy Director of ICT Department of INEC, who also appeared based on the second subpoena on the Chairman of the Commission, told the court that he brought two out of five documents the petitioners requested for.
The Justice Tsammani-led panel adjourned further hearing on the petitions till Wednesday (today).