The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal yesterday began work on the petitions filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his party and three other political groups alongside their flag-bearers against the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as winners of the February 23, 2019 polls.
The sitting opened with an appeal to the litigants to shun actions that could put the panel in a negative light.
Specifically, the tribunal chairman, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who made the call at the special sitting of the five-member panel, cautioned counsel and parties against discussing daily proceedings in the media and other public places.
She warned that the tribunal would not hesitate to wield the big stick against anyone found wanting, adding that their task was a serious national assignment and must be seen as such by all.
The chairman pointed out that no matter how an election was conducted, there were bound to be complaints, hence the establishment of the panel to give speedy hearing.
Bulkachuwa disclosed that 786 petitions had been received with Imo State topping with 76 receipts and six tribunals.
The presiding judge assured that the panel would be fair to all in its bid to ensure that justice was done, and, expeditiously too.
Other members are Justices Abdul Aboki, Samuel Osiji, Joseph Ikyegh and Peter Olabisi-Igeh.
Besides, the Justice Josephine Coker-led reconstituted Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal also commenced activities in Abeokuta with a stern warning to parties to avoid “inducement, harassment and intimidation” of its members.
She assured lawyers and politicians of the panel’s “impartiality and incorruptibility” in the discharge of its duty.
The counsel for the presidential challenge promised to comply with the rules and give maximum cooperation to the tribunal.
Levi Ozoukwu (SAN) is leading the legal team of Atiku and the PDP, while Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) are defending Buhari and the APC.
First on the list was the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential standard-bearer, Albert Owuru, on which identification and regularisation of processes were taken. Justice Bulkachuwa thereafter fixed May 14 for pre-hearing.
Hearing of Atiku and PDP petitions against INEC, Buhari and the APC was adjourned to May 15 but the panel however declined to give definite dates for hearing in the petitions of the Coalition for Change (C4C) and the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) following the inability of the two petitioners to serve processes on the president and other respondents.