DRAMA AS COURT STRIKES OUT APPLICATION TO STOP JONATHAN'S SWEARING-IN
In the application, the party had approached the tribunal to stop Jonathan and Sambo from presenting themselves tomorrow for swearing in as elected president and vice president until the petition filed against their victory in the April polls has been determined.
But in a dramatic twist, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Toochukwu Alonso, in whose name the petition was prepared and filed, sprang to his feet in protest, as soon as the court called the matter. He specifically told the bewildered jurist and lawyers that his name and signature were used by the petitioner without his consent and applied that the said petition be struck out.
He said: 'The petition was filed in my name without my consent and when I approached the chairman of the party for explanation, he ignored me,' he told the tribunal. He said he decided to come before the tribunal to protest against the petition when he became aware that the matter was coming up for hearing yesterday.
'I am not aware of the petition until yesterday when I saw my name in some national dailies that I'm the author of the petition. In the circumstances, I will be urging the court to strike it out.'
His application sparked off divergent legal arguments from counsel representing all the parties in the motion. From the camp of the petitioner, for instance, his counsel, Justice Eyare Ogah, expressed shock over the development, even as he opposed the striking out of the application.
'We just listened to the submissions of the interested party (Alonso) and we are surprised. However, he might have probably done the job as a solicitor to the petitioner,' he said.
The presiding judge and president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, cuts in: 'See him in front of you. He just said he did not file any petition but became aware of it on the pages of newspapers.'
Responding, counsel to the petitioner, Ogah urged the court not to strike out the petition. 'The application to strike out the petition should be rejected. He is neither the petitioner nor the solicitor that prepared the petition, so he lacks all it needs for him to be heard, to the extent that the application be struck out. If he is desirous of striking out the application, then he should come by a way of a motion because it is a very serious matter,' he submitted.
But counsel to Jonathan and Sambo, Dr. Alex Inzinyon (SAN) and Damien Dodo (SAN) threw their weight behind the aggrieved lawyer, as he supported his submissions to strike out the petition.
According to the legal luminary, 'speaking from the bar, this is a very serious matter and I urged the court to not only strike out the petition, but also to dismiss it. This is because if the person in whose name the petition was filed said he was not aware of any petition, the implication is that there is no petition before the court.
'The application by Alonso is well founded and he has shown respect by coming all the way by himself before this noble court that he is not the author of the petition and the signature on the face of the petition is not his. His position, as a legal practitioner, is not in dispute, I, therefore, urged the court to strike out the petition'.
On his part, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abdullahi Mahmud (SAN), urged the court to tred cautiously saying, 'I'm not sure whether it is prudent to strike out the matter. There is no evidence before the court that no other counsel bears a similar name with the applicant until that is done, the court should trade carefully.'
It was at this point that the tribunal stood down the matter for 10 minutes. When they resumed, counsel to the applicant, after failing to justify his earlier position, sought the consent of the tribunal to withdraw from the matter.
Justice Salami in his short ruling held: 'We read the application and the accompanied seven paragraphs affidavit and we are convinced, especially in view of paragraph 29 to the 1st Schedule to the Act and having been withdrawn by concurrence of all the parties, the petition is hereby struck out and no order as to cost.'