Nigeria’s president-elect, Bola Tinubu, on Monday, urged the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja not to harmonise the three pending petitions challenging his victory.
Mr Tinubu’s victory at the 25 February presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is being challenged in three separate petitions pending before the court.
Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party’s Peter Obi and the Allied Peoples Democratic (APM) filed their petitions in March to challenge the outcome of the poll.
The petitions, containing largely similar complaints, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of widespread irregularities during the conduct of the presidential election.
Atiku and Mr Obi, in their separate suits are urging the court to either declare them president or nullify Mr Tinubu’s victory and order a fresh poll.
The APM on the other hand is praying for the court to declare Atiku president.
Last week, the court asked lawyers of parties in the petitions to address it on the provisions of paragraph 50 of the Fourth Schedule of the Electoral Act, 2022, which allow the court to consolidate the petitions.
Why petitions shouldn’t be consolidated
At the resumption of the court’s pre-hearing session on Monday, Mr Tinubu’s lawyer, Akin Olujinmi, appealed to the five-member panel of the court led by Haruna Tsammani not to consolidate the petitions.
Mr Olujinmi, a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), argued that consolidating the suit would undermine the “interest of justice.”
“The interest of justice in these petitions should be a restraint on the power of this court in granting a consolidation of these petitions,” he said during the pre-hearing session of the APM’s petition on Monday.
While Mr Olujinmi conceded that some of the petitioners’ prayers were similar, he said “some issues are not the same”.
“The counsel representing the petitioners and respondents are different and the grounds of the petitions are different.
“It will be overreaching for the respondents if consolidation is granted. We most humbly urge my Lords not to grant consolidation,” Mr Olujinmi said.
Arguing in the same fashion, APC’s lawyer, Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan, said consolidating the petitions would be “unwieldy.”
“We are opposing the consolidation of the petitions. The interest of justice will not be served by a consolidation of all of these petitions,” Mr Uwensuyi-Edosomwan, a SAN, said.
He contended that “The trial of the petitions will be unwieldy, and the substance of the case will be lost.”
Similarly, APM’s lawyer, S A T Abubakar, did not object to the consolidation of the petitions.
Similar debate is expected to come up during the hearing of the cases of the PDP and the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, the inauguration of the president-elect, Mr Tinubu, whose election is still being challenged in court, is about a week away.
The election petition hearing is expected to drag on till September. This will be followed by another lap of hearing at the Supreme Court where parties displeased with the outcome of the eventual decision of the Presidential Election Petition Court are entitled to appeal to.
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