6th July, 2011
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Wednesday reserved ruling on a preliminary objection filed by President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo against the petition of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.
The CPC through its counsel, Mr. Ebun Shofunde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, filed a petition before the Tribunal, headed by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, seeking to nullify the 16 April Presidential election and asked the tribunal to order for a re-run between the CPC and Jonathan.
Arguing the objection on Wednesday,the lawyer representing Jonathan and Sambo, Chief Wole Olanipekun, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, referred the court to paragraph four of CPC’s petition which stated that the result of the presidential election was declared on April 18, 2011, adding that by virtue of Section 285 (5)(a) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, that election petition is expected to be filed within 21 days after the date of declaration of result.
Olanipekun contended that from the provision of the constitution, 21 days after April 18 lapsed on Tuesday May 10 and not Sunday, May 8 when the petition was filed and that the CPC ought to have waited for the next working day rather than filing their petition on a sunday.
He further submitted that there was no compelling circumstance that could have warranted filing the petition on a Sunday.
Chief Olanipekun also cited the provision of Order 56 Rule 7 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rule and stated that it is only at the directive of the Chief Judge that the court registry can be opened on Sunday and public holidays.
He further stated that the petitioner had failed to attach an affidavit showing that the Tribunal Chairman gave a directive that the registry be opened on the said day. Furthermore, Olanipekun argued that relief six of the petitioner which is seeking for an order of the court to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to arrange another election between CPC and Jonathan is unconstitutional and cannot be granted by the court.
He submitted that the relief is unconstitutional placing it side by side with the provision of Section 134(4) of 1999 constitution adding that the court does not have the power to order an election between a political party and an individual.
According to him,”What the CPC is asking for is unconstitutional and once the court cannot order a fresh election, then there will be no need to go on with the petition. We therefore urge the court to terminate the life of this petition because there is nothing in it.”
In his own objection, counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, supported the argument of Olanipekun on the issue of the day of filing, adding that no law permits the court to direct the registry to open on a Sunday. He therefore prayed the court to dismiss the petition in its entirety.
Responding to the objection, Shofunde submitted that those who made the rule have left the discretion to the President of the Court of Appeal to direct that the registry be opened on any day apart from the week days which are not public holidays. Although Shofunde did not state whether it was the Tribunal leader that gave the directive for the registry to open on the day CPC filed its petition.
He therefore urged the court not to look at technicalities but rather consider the fact of the issue and allow the petition.
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja