Tribunal: Tinubu, APC, oppose consolidation of oppositions’ petitions

President-elect Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have vehemently opposed the proposal by the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) to consolidate the three surviving petitions challenging the conduct and outcome of the February 25 election.

The chairman of the five-member panel of the election court, Justice Haruna Tsammani had last Saturday muted the idea to consolidate the remaining petitions in line with the provisions of paragraph 50 of the First Scheduled to the Electoral Act, 2022.

The paragraph states: “Where two or more petitions are presented in relation to the same election or return, all the petitions shall be consolidated, considered and be dealt with as one petition unless the tribunal or court shall otherwise direct in order to do justice or an objection against one or more of the petitions has been upheld by the tribunal or court.”

However, counsel to parties sought time to consult with their respective clients and report back to court on the issue.

But when the issue was raised by the court on Monday shortly after conducting proceedings in the petition filed by Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM), it attracted divergent responses from parties to the petitions.

While Counsel to APM, Shehu Abubakar said he was not opposed to the consolidation of the petitions, the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), through its counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, said it will maintain a neutral position and leave it to the discretion of the court.

On their part, Tinubu, APC and Kabiru Masari vehemently opposed the proposal on the ground that it will among other reasons, affect the court in arriving at the substantial justice of the case.

Although five petitions were initially filed to challenge the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the election, however, the Action Alliance (AA) on May 8, withdrew its case, even as the Action Peoples Party (APP) followed suit two days later by also discontinuing further proceedings on its own petition.

The three surviving petitions are those filed by Atiku and PDP; Peter Obi and his Labour Party and that of the APM.

While Atiku’s joint petition with the PDP was marked CA/PEPC/05/2023, that of Obi and the LP was registered as CA/PEPC/03/2023.

The APM, in its petition, marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, that the withdrawal of Mr. Ibrahim Masari who was initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, invalidated Tinubu’s candidacy in view of Section 131(c) and 142 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The party argued that there was a gap of about three weeks between the period that Masari, who was listed as the 5th Respondent in the petition, expressed intention to withdraw, the actual withdrawal of his purported nomination, and the time Tinubu purportedly replaced him with Senator Kashim Shettima.

It further argued that Tinubu’s candidature had elapsed at the time he nominated Shettima as Masari’s replacement.

INEC had on March 1, announced Tinubu of the APC as the winner of the presidential poll, ahead of 17 other candidates that contested the election.

The electoral body declared that Tinubu scored a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat the two major contenders, Atiku of the PDP, who came second with a total of 6,984,520 votes and Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) who came third with total of 6,101,533 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, both. Atiku and Obi, while separately claiming that they won the contest, lodged petitions before the court.