Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN,
and constitutional lawyer, prof. Ben
Nwabueze, has mad a brief appearance at
the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
Nwabueze announced his appearance for the petitioners, Atiku
Abubakar and the Peoples’ Demcratic Party, PDP, who are challenging the outcome of the February 23
presidential election won by President Muhammadu
He took over from Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, on a day that
the five-member tribunal headed by Justice Mohammed Garba began
full hearing of the petition
challenging President Buhari’s re-election.
Nwabueze, who was granted permission to address the
tribunal on a wheelchair, said his presence was to underscore the importance of
the case to the constitutional development of the nation. “I have chosen to
appear on this auspicious day of commencement of hearing. I had to travel to
attend, notwithstanding my age and attendant health challenges.
‘‘This is to underscore the importance of this case to
the constitutional development of this country, a matter that I have been
passionate about all these years”.
Thereafter, he prayed to be excused by the tribunal
and Uzoukwu took over and announced that the petitioners would commence with
presenting witnesses and evidence with respect to the conduct of the
presidential election in Niger State.
Meanwhile, before the petitioners could kick-start the
hearing process, all the respondents- the Independent National Electoral
Commission, INEC, President Buhari, and the All Progressives Congress, APC,
opposed the continuation of the proceeding.
Counsel to President Buhari, Chief Mike Igbokwe, SAN,
decried that despite the order of the tribunal that all documents that would be
tendered from the Bar should be filed and exchange by parties, the petitioners
only served him two schedules of documents to be tendered with respect to
Jigawa and Niger States before the proceeding commenced.
“I urge this court to suspend the trial until they
comply with an order of the court made yesterday by the consent of parties that
schedule of documents to be tendered must be filed and exchanged between
parties”, Igbokwe added.
Similarly, Counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman, SAN, and that
of the APC, Yakubu Mekyau, SAN, accused the petitioners of attempting to ambush
them. All the respondents said they were not ready to go on with the hearing.
Nevertheless, Uzoukwu urged the court to ignore the
objections which he said was deliberately aimed to frustrate the hearing.
“Seriously our time of presenting our petition is being compromised by the
respondents. Bearing in mind that this petition has a timeline that is fast
approaching”, he added. The petitioners’ counsel noted that all the documents
to be tendered were originally listed in the petition, saying there was,
therefore, nothing the respondents could be surprised about.
Owing to the development, the tribunal stood down the
proceeding for 30 minutes to enable it take a decision.
It would be recalled that PDP and Atiku had in their
joint petition, maintained that the data they independently secured from INEC’s
back-end server revealed that they defeated President Buhari at the poll with
over 1.6million votes. They alleged that INEC had at various stages of the
presidential election unlawful allocated votes to President Buhari, saying they
would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that results of the election
as announced by the electoral body did not represent the lawful valid votes