As the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, kick-starts hearing on Monday, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have filed an application for an order to allow live coverage of day-to-day proceedings on the case they brought against the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.
Atiku, who came second in the presidential election that held on February 25, in the motion he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, specifically applied for; “An order, directing the Court’s Registry and the parties on modalities for admission of Media Practitioners and their Equipments into the courtroom”.
The PDP candidate and former Vice President contended that the petition he lodged against the President-elect, was “a matter of national concern and public interest”.
He argued that the case involved citizens and electorates in the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, who he said voted and participated in the presidential poll.
More so, he drew attention of the court to the fact that the International Community is equally interested on issues pertaining to Nigeria’s electoral process.
In the motion dated May 5, Atiku and the PDP insisted that their case against Tinubu, being a unique electoral dispute with a peculiar constitutional dimension, they said it was a matter of public interest in which millions of Nigerian citizens and voters are stakeholders, with the constitutional right to be part of the proceedings.
“An integral part of the constitutional duty of the Court to hold proceedings in public is a discretion to allow public access to proceedings either physically or by electronic means.
“With the huge and tremendous technological advances and developments in Nigeria and beyond, including the current trend by this Honourable Court towards embracing electronic procedures, virtual hearing and electronic filing, a departure from the Rules to allow a regulated televising of the proceedings in this matter is in consonance with the maxim that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.
“Televising court proceedings is not alien to this Honourable Court, and will enhance public confidence”, the petitioners added.
Atiku had in his joint petition with the PDP, marked: CA/PEPC/05/2023, applied for the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that was issued to Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
He maintained that the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the presidential election was “invalid by reason of non- compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022”.
Atiku further argued that Tinubu’s election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices.
“The 2nd Respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the Election.
“The 2nd Respondent was at the time of the Election not qualified to contest the Election”, Atiku added while listing grounds he said the court should consider to nullify Tinubu’s election.
He prayed the court to declare him winner of the presidential election, having secured the second highest number of lawful votes cast at the election.
However, in a reply he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Tinubu, queried the legal competence of petitions seeking to invalidate his election victory.
In a preliminary objection he entered before the court, Tinubu, described Atiku as a consistent serial loser that had since 1993, crisscrossed different political parties, in search of power.
The President-elect said he would during the hearing of the petition, lead evidence before the court to show how Atiku’s emergence as a candidate in the presidential election that held on February 25, led to the “balkanisation” of the opposition PDP.
Insisting that he was validly returned as winner of the presidential election by INEC, Tinubu told the court that unlike Atiku, he has been “a most consistent politician, who has not shifted political tendency and alignment”.
On the claim that he did not secure the statutory vote from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Tinubu, argued that it was not a mandatory requirement of the law that he must win the FCT before he would be declared as the President-elect.
He said Atiku’s call for his election to be nullified on the ground that he was mandatorily required to score one-quarter of the lawful votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the States and the FCT, “becomes suspect and abusive, when considered vis-à-vis relief 150(d), where the petitioners pray that the 1st petitioner who did not score one-quarter of the votes cast in more than 21 States and the FCT, Abuja, be declared the winner of the election and sworn in as the duly elected President of Nigeria”.
It will be recalled that INEC had on March 1, announced Tinubu as the winner of the presidential poll, ahead of 17 other candidates that contested the election.
It declared that Tinubu scored a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat Atiku who polled a total of 6,984,520 votes and Obi who came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes.
Aside from Atiku and the PDP, the Labour Party, LP, and its own candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, who came third at the election, are equally before the court to nullify Tinubu’s election.
A three-member panel of the PEPC which will conduct its proceedings at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, will on Monday, commence pre-hearing session on all the petitions that were brought before it by aggrieved presidential candidates and their political parties.