Politics

Improper Sorting Delays Atiku’s Petition Against Tinubu Once Again

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, were unable to present additional electoral documents from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as part of their evidence against President Bola Tinubu’s election victory on February 25.

POLITICS NIGERIA reports that this setback led to an adjournment of the petitioner’s case until Wednesday, allowing them time to organise the documents they intended to submit properly.

During the court proceedings, Chris Uche SAN, the lead counsel for the PDP, began by tendering the INEC voters register for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 14 batches. However, objections were raised by the lawyers representing INEC, Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Despite the objections, the court accepted the documents as evidence from Atiku while deferring a ruling on the objections.

Uche then proceeded to present Form EC8As, which contained the polling unit results, starting with Abia State. However, Uche informed the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that obtaining electoral materials, including the Form EC8As, from INEC had proven challenging. He explained that the majority of documents he received from INEC through a subpoena should be admitted as evidence, pending proper numbering by the lawyers and the court registry at the end of the day’s proceedings.

Uche argued that INEC should have arranged the documents properly before bringing them to court in accordance with the subpoena issued to the electoral commission.

Disagreeing with Uche, INEC’s lawyer, Oluwakemi Pineiro, stated that after an election, it was the responsibility of the recipient to arrange the electoral documents given to them by INEC in a manner suitable for prosecuting their case. Pineiro further noted that the documents sought to be tendered by the PDP were collected by INEC officials from various locations across the country. Additionally, Pineiro pointed out that the PDP had not paid for the certification of these documents, despite producing them.

The five-man panel, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, informed Uche that it was his legal team’s duty to create a schedule of the documents after INEC had produced them through the subpoena. Uche pleaded once again for the documents to be tendered in batches from the bar, explaining that it would take approximately 2 to 3 days to properly number them. The court responded by stating that they wanted all procedures to be conducted transparently in open court, granting Uche time to prepare.

After a brief recess, Uche informed the court that he and the lawyers representing the respondents had agreed that he would take back the documents, arrange them accordingly, and submit them the following day, Wednesday. Lawyers for all the respondents confirmed this agreement to the court.

In his ruling, Justice Haruna Tsammani stated, “This petition is further adjourned for continuation of hearing,” taking note of the agreement among the counsels. A member of the panel commented on the premature end of the proceedings for the day and advised the PDP to ensure proper organisation of the documents, considering the time-sensitive nature of the proceedings.

The PDP has two more days, until Thursday, to conclude the submission of documents and the presentation of witnesses. To date, the party has presented approximately 25 witnesses who have testified that INEC failed to adhere to electoral guidelines during the 2023 election.

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