PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TRIBUNAL: COURT GRANTS CPC'S REQUEST FOR MORE TIME
Besides, the Court of Appeal sitting at the Presidential Election Tribunal also granted the request by the petitioner permitting their motion to be taken outside the pre-hearing session.
President of the Court of Appeal and Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami in a brief ruling granted the prayers and adjourned further hearing of the petition to August 15.
In its petition, the CPC wants the tribunal to nullify the said election on the grounds that it did not comply substantially with the amended Electoral Act.
Already, the CPC had crossed a major legal hurdle at the Presidential Election Tribunal where the Court of Appeal threw out the objections raised by President Goodluck Jonathan and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the merit and competence of its petition.
In their notice of preliminary objections, counsel to President Jonathan and Sambo, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) who appeared for the PDP had asked the tribunal to throw out the CPC's petition for being a nullity having been filed on Sunday, May 8, which they noted was a non-working day and that the registry of the court, under the applicable rules, does not open on a Sunday for transaction of any business.
They said the petition was not properly constituted because General Muhammadu Buhari and Pastor Tunde Bakare for whose benefit the petition was filed were not made parties to the petition.
Jonathan and Sambo said the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the petition because some of the grounds relied upon by the petitioner were pre-election matters, which could not be determined by an election tribunal.
Delivering ruling on the fierce objection argued by three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), the tribunal stood its ground that it would not act on technicality to dismiss the petition at the preliminary stage without looking into its merit.
President of the Court of Appeal and Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami who gave the ruling said the president, PDP and INEC failed to disclose injustice or damages they stood to suffer if the petition was heard.
Citing Section 150(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, the tribunal said there was a presumption of regularity and that the Public Holiday Act relied upon by the three applicants did not apply to the case at hand.
The Tribunal held that the Respondents will have nothing to lose by the petitioner filing its petition on a Sunday adding that notwithstanding the provision of the Public Holiday Act, the Permanent Secretary may, in the interest of the public request any person to perform official functions on a Saturday, Sunday or public holidays.
'If it is in public interest, public servants can work on weekends. Public interest means, that election petition should be dealt with expeditiously. Even the Electoral Act reflected on this', Justice Salami stated and resolved the issue in favor of the petitioner (CPC).
On non joinder of Buhari and Bakare as parties in the petition, the Tribunal held that the Electoral Act gives political parties the powers to file election petition, saying that, 'the Electoral Act recognizes the in-alienable right of the party to file a petition at the Tribunal, so, it cannot be struck out for non joinder of Buhari/Bakare. This court has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the petition, even without joinder of the two persons'.
Jonathan, PDP and INEC had filed three different motions praying that the petition should not be heard for being illegal and incompetent, the President of the Court of Appeal, struck out the motions for lack in merit and for being premature.
Justice Salami who is heading the 5-man panel hearing the petition held that filing of the petition on Sunday was just a mere technicality that should not be allowed to sniff live out of the petition.
However, PDP has filed an appeal at the Supreme Court praying it to set aside the ruling of the tribunal.