PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TRIBUNAL: Tension, mixed expectations as Tinubu, Atiku, Obi know fate tomorrow
………….Court of Appeal accredits counsels
APC, PDP, LP confident of victory
Meet judges who’ll determine Tinubu’s fate
Anxiety has heightened and expectations have reached fever pitch as the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja is set to give judgment on Wednesday in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, challenging the declaration of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress as winner of the February 25, 2023 election.
According to a report released on Monday by the Court of Appeal Registrar, Umar Bangari, the hearings would be available for live broadcast by interested television stations in a bid to promote transparency and openness for the public to follow.
“The Court of Appeal wishes to inform the general public that judgment in the following petitions before the Presidential Election Petition Court will be delivered on Wednesday 6th September 2023: CA/PEPC/03/2023 between Mr. Peter Gregory Obi & Anor VS. Independent National Electoral Commission & 3 Ors. CA/PEPC/04/2023 between Allied Peoples Movement VS. Independent National Electoral Commission & 4 Ors.”
“CA/PEPC/05/2023 between Abubakar Atiku & Anor VS. Independent National Electoral Commission & 2 Ors. In a bid to promote transparency and openness, these judgments will be televised live by interested television stations for the public to follow,” the Court of Appeal Registrar said in a statement.
He, however, said: “Access to the Court premises will be strictly on accreditation. Only accredited individuals, including counsel and representatives of political parties, will be granted access to the courtroom. Interested members of the public are advised to watch proceedings from their television sets. We appeal for the maximum cooperation of the general public to ensure a hitch-free exercise, please.”
The tribunal had reserved judgment on August 1, 2023, after the parties adopted their final addresses.
The PDP and Atiku allege that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election because he did not meet the constitution’s requirements. They also alleged widespread irregularities and malpractices in the election, which affected the outcome.
The LP and Obi are alleging that Tinubu was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the election. They also alleged widespread irregularities and malpractices in the election, which affected the outcome.
The tribunal is expected to deliver a fair and impartial judgment on the petitions.
Nigerians will closely watch the review and are eager to know whether Tinubu will be declared the winner of the election or whether the election will be nullified.
Court of Appeal accredits counsels
In compliance with the court’s directive on the accreditation of counsels on the day of judgement, the leader of the APC team, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, is also of the view that in view of the restrictions, it will serve no useful purpose for a large team of counsel to be in court, only to go and listen to judgment being delivered by the Court.
A member of the legal team, Babatunde Ogala SAN, said in a statement on Monday that Olanipekun “has directed that the following counsel, from both the Inner and Utter Bar are to be present in court to represent our clients on the 6th September 2023 to take judgement on their behalf:
“INNER BAR: Anthony Malik, SAN; Babatunde Ogala, SAN; Remi Olatubora, SAN; and Mutalubi Ojo Adebayo, SAN.
“UTTER BAR: Taiwo Lakanu Esq; Emmanuel Uwadoka Esq; Yinka Ajenifuja Esq; Akintola Makinde Esq and Julius Ishola Esq.
“The above listed names have also been sent to the Court of Appeal for accreditation, and only they will be accredited as representing President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.
“The team leader craves the understanding of all.”
APC, PDP, LP confident of victory
Meanwhile, there is pressure on the tribunal members as the petitioners have urged them to shun intimidation from all quarters and issue a judgement that the people want.
The APC, PDP, LP also reacted ahead of the tribunal’s verdict.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and member of President Tinubu’s legal team, Yusuf Ali, expressed his optimism that the tribunal’s ruling would favour his client.
He said, “We pray for success at the end of the day. Cases are conducted in the court and not in the media, either social or mass media. The court listens to facts and applies the law.”
Similarly, the publicity director of the APC, Bala Ibrahim, also stated that the party is relaxed and optimistic, contrary to insinuations that the APC is under pressure.
Ibrahim denied that the ruling party was under any pressure and expressed confidence that justice would be served.
According to him, “The pressure is on them. Obviously, anyone that is in labour is likely to be under pressure.’’
The legal representative of Atiku and the PDP, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), appealed to the tribunal to issue a verdict that would portray justice and fairness.
Ozekhome said: “I expect the tribunal to shun blaring sirens of power or executive intimidation to do justice. I expect the tribunal to know that Nigerians, the international community, and indeed the whole world are watching.”
The national legal adviser of the Labour Party, Kehinde Edun also expressed optimism that the judiciary would not be biased in its judgment.
He stated that Obi and the Labour Party believe firmly in the judiciary to deliver a fair judgment reflecting the people’s will.
Edun said, “When you lose hope, then it is over. It means you are now calling for anarchy. LP has come too far to lose hope at this stage. We have to continue to hope and believe they do the right thing.”
The five justices to determine Tinubu’s fate
Below are the profiles of the five justices who are members of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal
Haruna Tsammani, 64 was appointed a Justice of the appeal court in 2010. He was called to the Bar after attending the Nigerian Law School, Lagos in 1983. He was appointed a high court judge in Bauchi State on September 17, 1998.
Tsammani is not new to electoral tribunal sittings. In December 2015, he was part of the five-man panel of the Appeal Court that dismissed an appeal instituted by a former governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, against the election of the late governor, Abiola Ajimobi.
Similarly, in 2019, Tsammani wrote the lead judgment for an election petition submitted by Ajimobi, who contested the decision of the 2019 Election Petition Tribunal, which on November 19, of that same year, confirmed Kola Balogun of the PDP as the winner of the senatorial election for Oyo State.
Ajimobi’s petition was rejected by Tsammani, who, in the lead judgment, noted that the petition lacked merit.
He served as the chairman of the three-man panel that granted Obi and Atiku’s applications to serve Tinubu their petitions by substituted means.
He also presided over the Value Added Tax case between the Rivers State Government and the Federal Government. He is ranked 12th on the senior hierarchy list of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Stephen Jonah Adah:
The 66-year-old Justice is from the Asaba Division of the Court of Appeal. He graduated from the Nigerian Law School in 1982 and hails from Kogi State.
Adah was appointed as a judge of the Federal High Court on November 12, 1998, and was part of the justices promoted to the Appeal Court in November 2012.
One of his landmark judgments was delivered in an appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2020 against a trial court’s decision, which partially upheld the no-case submission filed by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Robert Azibaola.
Adah led the panel that affirmed Ifeanyi Ubah as a senator in Enugu State after he was sacked over alleged certificate forgery.
He also led the panel that affirmed Valentine Ozigbo as the PDP governorship candidate for the Anambra governorship election in 2022.
He is ranked 22nd on the senior list of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf:
She is the only female justice in the tribunal and was born on August 7, 1959.
She hails from Oyo State, where she started her education at Oranyan Grammar School between 1972 and 1973, before proceeding to the Breman Asikuma Secondary School, Central Region, Ghana, between 1973 and 1976.
Bolaji-Yusuf attended the Obafemi Awolowo University between 1979 and 1983 and later, the Nigerian Law School from 1983 to 1984.
She was appointed as a justice in the Oyo State High Court on January 30, 1997, where she delivered major judgments.
She was appointed to the Court of Appeal on March 24, 2014.
One of her lead judgments was delivered during the hearing of an N5.6bn pension scam in Oyo State.
The case involved the EFCC and 12 other persons in the Oyo State civil service.
She was on the panel that affirmed that the candidates of the Godwin Obaseki-led faction were the authentic ones to participate in the Edo State 2023 elections.
She ranks 31st on the senior hierarchy list of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Boloukuoromo Moses Ugo
The Bayelsa-State-born justice is from Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the state. Born in 1965, Ugo began his education at the State school, Igbedi in Bayelsa State from 1972 to 1978.
He proceeded to the Government Secondary School, Asoama, Sabagreia in Bayelsa State from 1977 to 1982. He attended the University of Calabar, where he studied law from 1985 to 1989, and later attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos in 1990.
Justice Ugo was appointed as a Justice of the High Court of Bayelsa State in March 2006. He became an appellate court justice in March 2014 and ranks 44th on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Mohammed Abba Bello:
The 62-year-old jurist from Kano State attended the Nigerian Law School in 1985.
In 2010, he was appointed to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory. He presided over the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Tribunal in 2019.
David Ombugadu, the PDP governorship candidate in the general election of 2019, had filed a suit against INEC and Governor Abdullahi Sule of the APC.
However, Justice Mohammed rejected the petition on the grounds that it lacked merit, noting that the petitioner’s claims of excessive voting and electoral violence could not be substantiated.
He is ranked 71st on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.