14th July, 2011
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Thursday dismissed the preliminary objection filed by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, asking it to terminate the petition by the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, challenging their victory in last April’s presidential election.
The CPC is challenging the victory of President Goodluck Jonathan and Architect Namadi Sambo as President and Vice President of Nigeria and seeks for the nullification of the said election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The president’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun and that of his party, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, both Senior Advocates Nigeria, had earlier asked the Tribunal to throw out CPCâ€™s petition for being a nullity, having been filed on Sunday, May 8, 2011, 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 that 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.
They also argued that the court lacks 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.
While delivering the ruling, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami disagreed with President Jonathan and held that the era of technicalities are over and that the Tribunal will hear and determine the petition based on its merit.
The Tribunal also held that the President, Vice President and their party, PDP, have nothing to lose by CPC filing its petition on a Sunday and added 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.
â€œIf it is in public interest, public servants can work on weekends. Public interest means that election petition should be dealt with speedily. Even the Electoral Act reflected on this,â€ Justice Salami stated and went ahead to resolve the issue in favour of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.
The tribunal as disagreed with the President on non joining of Buhari and Bakare as parties in the petition, and observed that the Electoral Act recognises the inalienable right of any party to file a petition at the Tribunal, and subsequently refused to strike out the petition on the ground of not joining Buhari and Bakare.
According to Justice Salami, “This court has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the petition, even without joinder of the two personsâ€
The Tribunal however agreed with the PDP in some areas of its objection by striking out some paragraphs of CPC’s petition which mentioned some allegations against the Nigeria Police Force, Civil Defence and the Nigerian Army without joining them in the petition so as to enable them explain their roles during the election.
The Tribunal adjourned further hearing of the petition till 1 August, 2011 and re-stated its earlier order of 24 May 2011 that INEC should allow CPC unfettered access to the election materials for the purpose of forensic examination and analysis.
Meanwhile, PDPâ€™s counsel, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, told journalists that the party will appeal against the decisions of the Tribunal at the Supreme Court, but noted however that the appeal will not disturb hearing of the petition at the Tribunal
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja