By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate , Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have opened trial at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in respect of their petition challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 23, 2019 poll.
The petitioners legal team led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) on Thursday opened the trial by tendering electoral documents, Form EC8 for Agaie Local Government Area of Niger State.
The tendering was opposed by the respondents’ lawyers, but as earlier agreed among the parties, the lawyers said they would give the reasons for their objection to the document at the final address stage.
The trial finaly opened after the five-man tribunal’s dismissal of the respondents’ earlier request for the suspension of the trial on Thursday.
The respondents comprising of the independent National Electoral Commission, Buhari, and his party, the All Progressives Congress, had earlier called for the suspension of the proceedings on the grounds of alleged late-filing and serving of the petitioners’ schedule of the documents on them shortly before sitting began on Thursday.
But ruling, the 3-man bench led by Justice Mohammed Garba, dismissed the rspondents’request, saying that the agreement reached between the parties at pre-hearing session concluded early on Wedneday, had stipulated that trial would commence of Thursday.
Justice Garba, who delivered the ruling of the tribunal added that the agareement reached which was adopted at the tribunal’s directive on Wedneday did also not make the service of the schedule of documents a condition precedent for commencement of trial.
He added that the respondents could also not validly claimed to have been ambushed by the filing of the schedule since the document listed in it has been referenced in the petition filed and served on the respondents months ago.
The tribunal had admitted the form EC8C for Agaie LocalGovernment Area of Niger State tenered by the petitioners as exhibit P1.
Uzoukwu who kick-started hearing of the petition with tendering of result sheets in the polling units, wards and local government areas of Niger State said he will follow up with those of Jigawa, Yobe etc.
Also, result sheets for polling units, wards and local government areas of Yobe State were also tendered and admitted as exhibits by the tribunal.
As usual counsel to INEC, Buhari and APC announced their objections to admissibility of the result sheets and that reasons for their objection will be made known at the address stage.
Conspicuously absent were star lawyers of the Respondents including Buhari’s lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun; APC lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi; Festus Keyamo & co and the President’s regular representative, Nuhu Ribadu.