Presidential Election: Atiku, Obi Get 3 Weeks To Present Witnesses As Tribunal Sets Aug 8 For Final Hearing

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The presidential election petition court (PEPC) has concluded pre-hearing in all three petitions filed against Bola Tinubu, president-elect.

Tinubu, the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared as the winner of the February 25 election after scoring 8,794,726 votes.

Aggrieved by the outcome, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and Peter Obi, the Labour Party (LP) candidate, are challenging Tinubu’s victory.

The Allied Peoples Movement (APM) is also challenging Tinubu’s election.

At the court session on Tuesday, the five-member panel consolidated all the petitions because of the time-bound nature of the case.

The court issues a trial schedule to aid the speedy dispensation of the petitions.

According to the electoral act, the tribunal has 180 days to determine the petitions. The court is expected to round up all its activities on or before September 16, 2023.

In the petition filed by Obi and the Labour Party, a total of 83 witnesses would be called by both the petitioners and the respondents.

The petitioners indicated that they would call 50 witnesses, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) listed five witnesses, Tinubu and Shettima listed 21 witnesses and the APC listed seven witnesses.

All the parties indicated that they would call experts and subpoenaed witnesses asides from those already listed.

Tinubu, Shettima and the APC said they would require the services of interpreters to translate from English to any other Nigerian language as required.

All parties were opposed to a settlement out of court.

The tribunal said it would distil all the cases for determination since parties were unable to agree on the issues to be determined in the petition.

In its ruling, the court held that the petitioners must present their case within three weeks (May 30 – June 23) as opposed to the seven weeks they had sought.

The court held that in line with paragraph 41(3) of the first schedule of the electoral act, there shall be no oral examination of witnesses. Instead, they will only adopt their witness statement on oath.

For star witnesses, the examination in chief shall be for a maximum period of 30 minutes while cross-examination and re-examination shall be for 20 and five munies each.

As for other witnesses, the court allotted a maximum of 10 minutes each for examination in chief and five minutes for cross-examination.

If respondents are cross-examining each other, they shall have five minutes to do so.

The first, second and third respondents have five days each to present their respective cases while the fourth respondent has three days.

Haruna Tsammani who led the five-member panel said the time given shall be strictly enforced “and for that purpose, we will appoint a Timekeeper”.

The court fixed May 30 to June 23 for Obi and LP to prove their case, June 24 to June 29 for INEC, and June 30 to July 5 for Tinubu and Shettima while the APC would present its case between July 6 to July 10.

August 5 is fixed for the adoption of final addresses.

ATIKU AND PDP

The PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, have also been directed to prove their case against Tinubu within three weeks.

The court said the 100 witnesses the petitioners intended to call would not be going through an oral examination. Rather, they would adopt their written witness statements on oath.

A total of 166 witnesses (including respondents’ witnesses) are expected to be called in Atiku’s petition.

All the parties in the petition also indicated that they would call expert witnesses.

Like LP, the court also allowed that star witness would be examined for 30 minutes while cross-examination and re-examination would be for 20 and five munies each.

While INEC has two days to present its case, Tinubu and the APC have five days each to prove their cases.

The petitioners are expected to start presenting their cases from May 30 to June 20.

The close of cases would be July 16. The respondents’ address would hold on July 26 while the petitioners’ address would be on August 2.

The court fixed August 8 for the adoption of addresses.

APM

The Allied Peoples Movement (APM), INEC and the second respondent said they had one witness each to present before the court.

The third and fourth respondents said they would call two out of the five witnesses they initially listed. The fifth respondent has one witness. In all, there are six witnesses to be called in the petition filed by the APM.

The witnesses are also not expected to give oral evidence but adopt their written depositions on oath.

Similar to the other petitions, the star witnesses are allowed examination in chief for 30 minutes while cross-examination and re-examination shall be for 20 and five minutes each.

The first and second respondents have one day each to prove their respective cases, the third and fourth respondents shall have two days while the fifth respondent shall have one day to present the case.

The petitioners have to present their cases on May 30.

The first respondent will be on May 31 while the second respondent will be on June 1. The third and fourth respondents are to be from June 2 to June 5 and the fifth respondent on June 6.

Close of evidence shall be on June 6. Addresses by the respondents are scheduled for June 17 while that of the petitioners will be on June 26.

The court fixed July 3 for the adoption of final written addresses.

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