PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TRIBUNAL THROWS OUT PETITION AGAINST JONATHAN
The Hope Democratic Party (HDP) yesterday lost its bid to nullify the election of President Goodluck Jonathan and his Deputy, Namadi Sambo as the Court of Appeal sitting as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal dismissed its application seeking to revive its petition against Jonathan's election victory.
The tribunal, headed by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, had on May 27 struck out the petition at the instance of the petitioner.
But in a somersault, the party came back with a fresh application praying the tribunal to set aside its ruling and re-list its petition and to give it an accelerated hearing.
By this development, the tribunal was now left with the petition filed by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) against the emergence of President Jonathan to tackle.
Before yesterday's ruling, the court had earlier thrown out another motion by the party to stop the swearing-in of President Jonathan and his deputy after a voluntary withdrawal of same by the petitioner.
Delivering its ruling yesterday, the five-man panel of justices of the court unanimously agreed with the submissions of President Jonathan's defence team that it was an abuse of court process for someone to withdraw a matter in court only to come back and ask the court to re-list it.
Besides, it was the position of the court that the petitioner did not convince the court on why it should set aside its ruling and therefore dismissed the application as being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The petition itself was enmeshed in controversy as Mr. Ogochukwu Alozor who was alleged to have signed the petition denied in open court that the signature was not his own.
When the matter came up yesterday, the petitioner prayed the court to set aside its earlier ruling and re-list the petition, adding that the lawyer acted without the party's consent.
However, counsel to President Jonathan and Vice President Sambo, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) urged the tribunal to refuse the application on the ground that since the petition was withdrawn by the lawyer to the petitioner, Mr. Eyare J. Ogar with his consent, the withdrawal was legally binding.
Olanipekun noted that both the petitioner and the respondents were in court when Eyare Ogar moved an application to withdraw the petition, which was dully filed and signed by both Eyare Ogar and Ogochukwu Alozor.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has fixed July 6 to hear applications by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Jonathan challenging its jurisdiction to hear the petition filed by the CPC.
The CPC's appeal that was listed for a pre-trial conference was adjourned at the instance of counsel to the petitioner, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who told the court that he was only served with the Presidency's application last Thursday and he needed the statutory seven days to reply.
While conceding that the application by the PDP was ripe for hearing, Malami, however, prayed the court to take the two applications together since both applications were interwoven in respect of an issue bordering on the filing of the petition on a Sunday.
Alternatively, the CPC lead counsel asked the court to take the two applications together with the substantive matter, since the court had only 180 days within which to hear and determine the petition.
Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) who had admitted service of the two applications on him, however, told the court that he had no intention to file a counter reply but would respond on issues of law.
Awomolo also agreed with the position of the CPC's counsel that the two applications be taken together, adding, however, that the issue of jurisdiction be taken first before the substantive matter.
On their part, President Jonathan and Sambo's defence team anchored by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), while conceding for an expeditious determination of the appeal, however, said this should not be at the expense of their application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain CPC's petition.
He informed the court that his preliminary objection is not just about filing the petition on Sunday but that he wants some paragraphs deleted from the CPC's petition, which he urged the court to strike out.
Particularly, he said they are challenging the reliefs, which they believe are the very essence or heartbeat of the petition and as soon as those paragraphs are deleted, there will be nothing to base any hearing on. He therefore urged the court to allow them take their preliminary objective first in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In his submission, counsel to PDP, Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN said they have a three-legged objection, which also attack the lifeline or back-born of the petition, and therefore aligned himself with other counsel who held that the preliminary objection be taken first so that as soon as the court upholds the objection, the matter will terminate.
He also agreed with Malami that the two applications could be taken together, adding that he intends to file a reply to the applications.