Wednesday, 4th October 2023

PEPC: Improper arrangement of documents stalls hearing of Atiku’s petition

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
07 June 2023   |   3:44 am
Proceeding at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja were stalled, yesterday, through an improper arrangement of documents by counsel to presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.

Presidential Election Petition Court

• Court awards N20m costs against lawyer seeking to stop Tinubu’s swearing-in

Proceeding at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja were stalled, yesterday, through an improper arrangement of documents by counsel to presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.

Atiku is challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu.

At the resumed sitting, Eyitayo Jegede, counsel for the petitioners (Atiku and PDP), sought leave of the court to tender certain documents, which include a certified true copy of notice of discontinuance in a case marked, SC/CV/254/2023.

Jegede also tendered a certified true copy of Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Form EC8E from nine local councils of Kogi State.

But the court did not rule on admittance of the document tendered from the councils, due to improper arrangement.

Atiku’s lawyer, therefore, requested an adjournment, to enable him to arrange the schedule of documents the petitioners wish to tender before the court.

Cited in the petition, as respondents, were INEC, Tinubu and All Progressives Congress (APC), which did not object to the adjournment.

Consequently, the five-man panel, headed by Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, adjourned hearing to today.

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo awarded N20 million costs against Chuks Nwachukwu, a lawyer representing five Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents, in a suit seeking an order to stop the May 29 swearing in of Tinubu.

Delivering judgment, Ekwo struck out the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked locus standi to institute the matter.

He said: “I make an order striking out this action on grounds of lack of locus standi of the plaintiffs, lack of jurisdiction of the court, and failure of the plaintiffs to demonstrate to this court that similar subject is not pending before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which proceedings are ongoing.”

Ekwo, therefore, ordered the lawyer to pay the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), listed as 1st and 2nd defendants in the case, the sum of N10 million each.

The court also directed that until Nwachukwu paid off the N20 million costs, no further action should be taken on the matter.

The judge, who condemned Nwachukwu’s comment in the media, said, if the lawyer was in the courtroom, he would have been barred “from practising until he appears before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to determine whether he is fit to practise the profession.

“But since he is not in court, I made an order, directing the registrar to forward all the processes to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, to determine whether he is fit to practise the profession.”

He also directed that the order of the court be served on the chief registrar of the Supreme Court, the AGF, and the Nigerian Bar Association.

The five FCT residents: Anyaegbunam Okoye, David Adzer, Jeffrey Uche, Osang Paul and Chibuike Nwanchukwu, had filed the suit, seeking an order of the court to stop the inauguration of Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.

The plaintiffs had sued for themselves and on behalf of other residents and registered voters in the FCT.

In the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/578/2023, and filed on April 28, the plaintiffs averred that Tinubu failed to secure at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the FCT.

They, therefore, sought an order of court restraining the CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, and any judicial officer and/or any authority or persons from swearing in any candidate as president or vice president, among other prayers.

Ekwo said, upon reading the affidavit attached to the application, he could “discern that the averments thereof are merely the voice of Esau and the hands of Jacob. It means that the said Chuks Nwachukwu of counsel for the plaintiffs instigated this suit and merely got the plaintiffs to stand in as parties, while he handles the suit as a lawyer.

“This is an unprofessional conduct on the part of the said Chuks Nwachukwu of counsel of the plaintiffs.

“It is unfortunate that lawyers, like Chuks Nwachukwu of counsel to the plaintiffs, continue to engage in this sort of activity by procuring innocent citizens to act as fronts in litigations, which are actually their personal cases.

“This is done with such impunity and lack of fear of the consequence to the chagrin and ruin of the reputation of the legal system in this country.

“It is so because the learned counsel has made himself to believe that he can flout the Rule of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners without any consequence.

“On the whole, I find that this action is premised on recklessness, frivolity and complete lack of knowledge of elementary principles of law, as it relates to the Constitution and Electoral Act, 2022.”

Nwachukwu had granted interview in the media, accusing the judge of shying away from delivering judgment in his suit.

Tribunal Admits ward results of 17 States as exhibits in Obi petition
From Ameh Ochojila, Abuja.

The Presidential Election Petition Court PEPC on Tuesday admitted exhibits from the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi in seventeen States to quashe the victory of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

Obi and the Labour Party had on Tuesday tendered exhibits from the various wards comprising Form EC8B from the wards across the seventeen States.

At earlier proceedings last week the LP presidential candidate and his party had tendered exhibits in form EC8A in for twelve states, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Oyo, Edo, Lagos and Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Benue, Cross River, Niger, Osun and Ekiti

They also tendered Form EC8A which were admitted for Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Delta, Kaduna, Imo, Ondo, Sokoto, and Kogi state .

However at Tuesday (today) proceedings Exhibit tendered comprising forms EC8B which is collation results from wards in the February 25 presidential election certified by the National Electoral Commission INEC as certified true copies of the original.

Breakdown of the fresh exhibits tendered on Tuesday showed that forms EC8B were from wards of ; 21 local governments of Adamawa, 23 local governments of Benue state, 21 local governments Areas of Kogi , 11 local government areas of Nasarawa and 18 local government areas of Ondo state.

Also results from the wards of, 23 local governments areas of Sokoto, 25 local government areas of Delta, 25 of Imo, Oyo 27 and Cross Rivers 18 local governments areas were also tendered and admitted.

The petitioners also tendered certified true copy of form EC8B from the wards of 15 local governments Areas of Edo state, 31 local government Areas of Akwa-Ibom States and 20 local governments Areas of Lagos state.

The winner of the election, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress APC as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC that conducted the election hinted the Court of their intentions to object to the documents at the final stage of address.

Meanwhile the five man panel of Justice headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani adjourned to June 7 for continuation of hearing.