Respondents to the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have called for the “suspension” of proceedings of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, on Thursday (today).
Thursday was scheduled for the commencement of trial, when the petitioners challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the February 23 election, were to begin calling their witnesses.
But shortly after the petitioners’ lawyer, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), indicated to the tribunal that he was starting the petitioners’ case with Niger State, Buhari’s counsel, Mike Igbokwe (SAN), rose to call for a halt of the proceedings.
He complained that he was only served with the petitioners’ schedule of documents shortly before the commencement of sitting.
This, he said, was contrary to the agreement that the schedule would be filed and served far ahead of proceedings.
Counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission, Yunus Usman (SAN), and the All Progressives Congress’ Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), also expressed the same misgivings.
They said the alleged late filing and serving of the same schedule was an ambush and called for the suspension of the trial to enable them to go through the schedule.
But Uzoukwu expressed surprise over the observation made by the respondents’ lawyers.
He said his team “should be commended and not condemned”, as he could not have served the schedule earlier than Thursday morning, because the registry of the court only completed the processing earlier on Thursday.
He alleged that the time within which the petitioners had to present their case “is being compromised by the respondents”.
He said the schedule to be used for Niger and Jigawa States was already with the respondents.
The Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal of five judges has stood down the matter for 30 minutes to rule.
Meanwhile, there are now about 70 boxes of electoral materials in respect of Kebbi, Yobe, Jigawa and Niger States in the courtroom. [PUNCH]