The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has slated Thursday, July 4, for the hearing of the petition by the Peoples Democratic Party challenging the February 23 presidential elections in the country.
The court gave the date after ruling on a pre-hearing application brought by the PDP challenging a previous decision of the Court on June 11.
The PDP had asked the court to set aside its decision to strike out a motion brought by the APC, following an application by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The PDP argued that the decision of the court to strike out the petition was done without due consideration to their objection and prayed the court to consider their objections before it.
The proceedings on June 11, challenged by the PDP, had resulted in the withdrawal of an application earlier brought by the APC, which had sought the dismissal of the PDP’s substantive petition on technical grounds.
According to the APC’s initial application brought by its counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, the PDP’s application was not properly signed because the name of the lead counsel, Levi Uzuegwu, was not clearly written as the signatory to the petition.
Consequently, the APC alleged that the PDP’s petition was not signed by a known lawyer since they viewed that the name of the petition’s signatory is not the same as that of Mr Uzuegwu. The APC also questioned other contents of the petition.
The controversies that birthed recent request
The controversy, however, began after the PDP alleged that the APC had acted in a manner that suggested abuse of court process because the ruling party filed two applications bothering on the same technical objection.
In its reaction to both applications, the PDP responded with counter affidavits to one of the motions by the APC, but only noted that the second one was an abuse of court process.
Following that observation, the APC requested the tribunal to withdraw the application responded to by the PDP.
In a further reaction, Mr Uzuegwu noted that the request to withdraw the application already responded to was coming rather late.
The PDP’s lawyer said the matter had gone beyond the stage in which a request for withdrawal could be made. He, therefore, suggested that the application ought to have been struck out.
After much persuasion by the APC through its counsel, Mr Fagbemi, the court withdrew the APC’s application already responded to by the PDP.
After the withdrawal, the APC noted that it now had a single application, bothering on the same contentious issue.
Mr Fagbemi asked the court to address their application, after noting that the PDP filed no response to the instant preliminary application.
In a reaction, the PDP reiterated its argument that the court ought to have heard the earlier application, which it had responded to.
Mr Uzuegwu argued that his clients had a right to be heard and submitted that the court could not proceed to rule on a request without their reaction.
Mr Fagbemi and his counterpart in the APC, however, argued that the PDP received both applications in time for them to have filed their responses.
Mr Fagbemi submitted that the PDP should be held responsible for failing to file their response to the second application within the stipulated time.
In a ruling, the Court, on June 11, agreed with the APC and ruled that the PDP ought to have filed its response in time and adjourned to rule on the application without the impute of the PDP.
It was based on that decision that the PDP filed its application, asking the court to allow them the opportunity to be heard before a decision is reached regarding the preliminary application.
Before giving its decision, the court noted the various grounds upon which it is allowed to set aside its decision.
The court said it is only empowered to set aside its decision if the judgment earlier pronounced was made in error, if it is a nullity, if it was given outside the court’s jurisdiction or if it contained a fundamental irregularity.
The court, however, noted that the PDP failed on its own to file a counter affidavit to the motion and that such a decision freely made “cannot be recalled.”
“They opted to. They chose and elected freely not to file a counter affidavit. In law, a voice or an election freely made by a party cannot be recalled.”
Consequently, the court, presided over by the tribunal Chairman, Garba Mohammed, ruled that the PDP application failed and refused it.
The court then ruled that the main hearing of the petition would begin on Thursday.
According to the court, the parties will have 10 minutes for the presentations of their petition while the respondents have six minutes to react.
For the presentation of witnesses, ordinary witnesses are to be examined in five minutes while their cross-examination will take three minutes.
For the star witnesses, the court said their examination will take place in 20 minutes while 10 minutes was reserved for their cross-examination.
Objections to any document would be noted at the point of changing the documents.
The respondents were given seven days during which to bring their written addresses after the close of evidence while the petitioners would respond to the written addresses within five days after collecting the written addresses.
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