The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPT, sitting in Abuja, on Friday, deferred hearing on the petition the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, filed to challenge the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, till June 9.
The adjournment followed the inability of a new counsel that appeared for the petitioner, Mr. Yakubu Maikasua, SAN, to obtain a copy of the judgement of the Supreme Court that affirmed President Bola Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the presidential election that held on February 25.
President Tinubu had on the last adjourned date, May 30, when the petitioner was billed to open its case, drew attention of the court to the fact that the main issue the APM raised in its petition, was already decided by the apex court.
Tinubu’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, maintained that an appeal the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, filed against his client, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court, bordered on the legality or otherwise of his client’s nomination to contest the election by the All Progressives Congress, APC.
He argued that the said judgement of the apex court touched on the substance of APM’s petition.
Chief Olanipekun, SAN, stressed that the only ground the APM canvassed in its petition, was the fact that the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, had double nominations, prior to the presidential election.
Insisting that the issue had been settled by the Supreme Court, Tinubu’s lead counsel, said: “As officers of this court, it behoves us to assist the court in all circumstances and also bring to the attention of yours lordships, decisions of courts, even from other jurisdictions, which relate to any matter pending before yours lordships.
“Even if those decisions do not necessarily align with the interest of out clients. If becomes more imperative if we are aware or abreast of any decision of the Supreme Court which touches on matters within the proceedings before your lordships.
“In this wise my lords, this particular petition which has just been called in respect of which the sole issue that is being ventilated is the nomination of the 1st Respondent who we represent.
“We are aware that the Supreme Court gave a judgement on the issue on Friday, May 23, in respect of appeal No: SC/CV/501/2023, and the parties involved were PDP Vs INEC& 3 Ors, where the apex court considered all the issues and resolved them.
“We promise that within next two days, certified true copies of the judgement will be made available.
“We will also confirm from the petitioners, whether in the light of the Supreme Court decision, there will still be the need to continue with this petition,” he added.
Following an application by counsel that appeared for the petitioners, Mr. S.A.T. Abubakar, the Justice Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel adjourned the matter.
However, at the resumed proceedings on Friday, Mr. Maikasua, SAN, who took over the case from Mr. Abubakar, told the court that the petitioner had yet to obtain a copy of the Supreme Court judgement.
“My lords, I am not in a position to take a stand on the status of the petition. We are doing all we can to obtain the judgement.
“In the circumstance, may we humbly request for an adjournment to enable us to obtain a copy of the judgement so that we can be able to take a position in the status of the petition,” APM’s lawyer, Maikasua, SAN, added.
Both counsel that appeared for President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, and that of the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, said they were not opposed to the request for an adjournment.
Likewise, counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mr. Kemi Pinhero, SAN, did not object to the request.
Consequently, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led panel adjourned further proceedings on the petition till next Friday.
The APM had in its petition marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, contended that the withdrawal of Mr. Masari who was initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, invalidated Tinubu’s candidacy in view of Section 131(c) and 142 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The party argued that there was a gap of about three weeks between the period that Masari, who was listed as the 5th Respondent in the petition, expressed intention to withdraw, the actual withdrawal of his purported nomination, and the time Tinubu purportedly replaced him with Senator Kashim Shettima.
It further argued that Tinubu’s candidature had elapsed as at the time he nominated Shettima as Masari’s replacement.
According to the petitioner, as at the time Tinubu announced Shettima as the Vice Presidential candidate, “he was no longer in a position, constitutionally, to nominate a running mate since he had ceased to be a presidential candidate of the 2nd Respondent having regards to the provisions of section 142 of the 1999 Constitution”.
More so, APM, contended that Masari’s initial nomination activated the joint ticket principle enshrined in the Constitution, stressing that his subsequent withdrawal invalidated the said joint ticket.
It, therefore, prayed the court to declare that Shettima was not qualified to contest as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC as at February 25 when the election was conducted by INEC having violated the provisions the of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
“An order nullifying and voiding all the votes scored by Tinubu in the presidential election in view of his non-qualification as a candidate of the APC”.
Likewise, an order to set aside the Certificate of Return that was issued to the President by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Both President Tinubu and the APC had since filed processes to challenge the competence of the petition which they said was bereft of merit.