The Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, have accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of failure to provide them with 70 per cent of the documents required to prosecute their petition at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
The court had on May 10, adjourned LP and Obi’s petition to Wednesday, May 17, to enable parties in the matter to agree on non-contentious issues to be relied on during the hearing.
But at the resumed hearing yesterday, LP and Obi’s lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), informed the court that the team met INEC’s legal department about six times for it to certify and release Form EC8As (polling unit result sheets), especially from Rivers and Sokoto states, to no avail as contained in the order of March 25.
While he claimed that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Rivers told them boldly that there were no Form EC8As to be given, in Sokoto they were asked to bring N1.5m.
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However, counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), informed the court that they were willing to cooperate with the LP team to obtain all the necessary materials.
He said he had earlier scheduled a meeting with the LP lawyers on May 15 and 16, but that they walked away because they allegedly were not provided with the materials they pleaded in their petition.
Lawyers to president-elect, Bola Tinubu, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), both submitted that failure to supply the materials might be because of non-payment of certification fees.
Court hints at sitting till midnight
Meanwhile, the court has indicated its intention to sit till midnight to conclude the pre-hearing stage of the presidential election petitions.
The presiding justice of the court, Justice Haruna Tsammani, disclosed this while refusing an application by counsel to Tinubu, Olanipekun, against adjourning the matter to Friday, May 19.
Olanipekun said the date was too soon and would not afford them time to respond to the motion and the issues raised.
But LP’s counsel, Uzoukwu, said they had always filed their motions in time and were willing to file before the adjourned date.
LP’s factional chair booed in court
The self-styled factional chairman of LP, Lamidi Apapa, was booed by supporters of the party at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja over his intention to address the press.
The supporters who were shouting, “Ole! Oleh!” said he had no mandate of the party to address newsmen over the proceeding in the court. It took the intervention of security agents to take him out of the court premises.
Meanwhile, the court refused to have on record the names of Apapa as the National Chairman of LP and Dudu Manoga when they introduced themselves.
Justice Tsammani requested Apapa to stop the introduction as the court would not recognise the national chairman on record.
The embattled National Chairman of LP, Julius Abure, who sat next to Obi, did not attempt to introduce himself.
Speaking to newsmen at another venue, Apapa said he was in court to assert his authority as the National Chairman of LP after a ruling by an FCT High Court.
Apapa was flanked by the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the party, Mike Ayuba Auta; National Publicity Secretary, Olufemi Abayomi Arabambi; and a women leader, Mrs Rukayat Salihu Umar.
He said Obi had shown disregard for the rule of law by siding with the Abure-led executive which was suspended by the court.
Asked to clear the air on the allegation of receiving N500m from external forces to destabilise the LP, Apapa denied receiving any money or being influenced by anybody or group to work against the party.
Tinubu objects to live broadcast of proceedings
Meanwhile, the candidate of APC and president-elect, Tinubu, asked the tribunal to refuse the motion seeking a live broadcast of its proceedings.
Tinubu also wanted the court to strike out the paragraphs of LP’s reply to their preliminary objection where new issues were raised.
Tinubu, through his counsel, Olanipekun, contended that granting the application would affect the security of witnesses and lawyers in the matter.
He said the application would breach the code of conduct for judicial officers, and noted that broadcasting entire trials, even in other jurisdictions, had their peculiarities.
He explained that the courtroom was not a stadium or theatre for entertainment to warrant cameras inside.
He noted that questions that ought to be answered were: “What type of cameras, equipment, gadgets, and devices will the court direct to be presented for the streaming? What will be their make, brand, and model? Where will they be situated, placed, or located within the court premises?” among others.
Meanwhile, the hearing in Abubakar Atiku’s (PDP candidate) petition will continue today.
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