By Goodluck Ikiebe
The Presidential Election Petition Court sitting in Abuja, has given the former Vice President and presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the three weeks he requested for to call 100 witnesses to prove his case that Tinubu of the APC was not the valid winner of the presidential election.
The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel, in its pre-hearing report, on Tuesday, noted that a total of 166 witnesses would be called to testify in the matter.
It stressed that star witnesses in the petition would only be allowed to adopt their written depositions make oral submissions and identify documents where it is required.
Whereas the court gave the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, two days to present its defence, it gave the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, APC, five days each to defend the petition.
Justice Stephen Adah, who read the pre-hearing report, equally drew attention of the parties to the fact that Atiku’s petition had been merged with the one that was filed by candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr. Peter Obi and the one that was filed by the Allied Peoples Movement, APM.
The court held that consolidation of the three petitions would ensure justice in the matter, adding that the parties would adopt their final briefs of argument to enable it to fix a date for judgement.
Atiku had in his joint petition with the PDP, marked: CA/PEPC/05/2023, applied for the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that was issued to Tinubu of the ruling APC, by INEC.
He maintained that the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the presidential election was “invalid by reason of non- compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022”.
Atiku further argued that Tinubu’s election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices.
“The 2nd Respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the Election.
“The 2nd Respondent was at the time of the Election not qualified to contest the Election”, Atiku added while listing grounds he said the court should consider to nullify Tinubu’s election.
He prayed the court to declare him winner of the presidential election, having secured the second highest number of lawful votes cast at the election.
Besides, Atiku told the court that the President-elect had “demonstrated inconsistency as to his actual date of birth, secondary schools he attended (Government College Ibadan); his State of origin, gender, actual name; certificates evidencing Universities attended (Chicago State University).”
He said: “The purported degree Certificate of the 2nd Respondent allegedly acquired at the Chicago State University did not belong to him but to a female (F) described as “F” in the Certificate bearing the name Bola Tinubu.
“The 2nd Respondent did not disclose to the 1st Respondent (INEC) his voluntary acquisition of the citizenship of Republic of Guinea with Guinean Passport No. D00001551, in addition to his Nigerian citizenship. The 2nd Respondent is hereby given notice to produce the original copies of his said two passports”.
The former Vice President further told the court that Tinubu “has record of criminal forfeiture of the sun of $460, 000. 00 for the drug related offence before the United States Judge, John A Nordberg in the 2nd Respondent’s First Heritage Account No. 263226700, being proceeds of narcotics-trafficking in violation of 18 U. S. C 1956 and 1947 for an offence involving narcotics”.
He insisted that the APC candidate did not meet the constitutional threshold and “is constitutionally disabled from contesting for office of President of Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
However, in a reply he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Tinubu, queried the legal competence of the petition.
Tinubu described Atiku as a consistent serial loser that had since 1993, crisscrossed different political parties, in search of power.