President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima have asked the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) sitting in Abuja, to dismiss the application by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a live broadcast of proceedings.
Making their position known in a counter affidavit Wednesday by their legal team, led by Wole Olanipekun, SAN, they said the relief sought by the applicants were not such that the court could grant it.
While describing the application as frivolous, the duo said the court is not a soapbox, stadium or theatre where the public should be entertained.
They said: “With much respect to the petitioners, the motion is an abuse of the processes of this honourable court.”
Specifically, the legal team wondered why a petitioner would file an application to distract the court and waste its precious time, arguing that the application bordered on policy formulation of the court, which is outside the PEPC’s jurisdiction as constituted.
They argued: “The application also touches on the powers and jurisdiction invested in the President of the Court of Appeal by the Constitution, over which this honourable court as presently constituted cannot entertain.
“The application touches on the administrative functions, which are exclusively reserved for the President of the Court of Appeal.
“The application is aimed at dissipating the precious judicial time of this honourable court. The said application does not have any bearing with the petition filed by the petitioners before this honourable court.
“It is in the interest of justice for this honourable court to dismiss the said application filed by the petitioners.”
In further making their position known in an attached written address, the duo countered the applicants’ reference to the fact that virtual proceedings were allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Olanipekun-led defence team posited that Atiku and the PDP failed to draw the court’s attention to the fact that practice directions were made by the respective courts for the exercise.
They said: “Another angle to this very curious application is the invitation it extends to the court to make an order that it cannot supervise.
“The position of the law remains, and we do submit that the court, like nature, does not make an order in vain, or an order which is incapable of enforcement.
“At the very best, this application is academic, very otiose, very unnecessary, very time-wasting, most unusual and most unexpected, particularly, from a set of petitioners, who should be praying for the expeditious trial of their petition.
“Petitioners have brought their application under Section 36(3) of the Constitution which provides that the proceedings of a court/tribunal shall be held in public.
“The word ‘public’ as applied under Section 36(3) of the Constitution has been defined in a plethora of judicial authorities to mean a place where members of the public have unhindered access and the court itself, sitting behind open doors, not in the camera.
“Even in situations where a class action is presented, the particular people constituting the class being represented by the plaintiffs or petitioners are always defined in the originating process.
“Here, in this application, the public at whose behest this application has been presented is not defined, not known, not discernable.
“Beyond all these, it is our submission that the court of law must and should always remain what it is, what it should be and what it is expected to be: a serene, disciplined, hallowed, tranquil, honourable and decorous institution and place.
“It is not a rostrum or a soapbox. It is not also a stadium or theatre. It is not an arena for ‘public’ entertainment.
“With much respect to the petitioners, the motion is an abuse of the processes of this honourable court,” the respondents further submitted.
Also at the sitting, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Wednesday continued their argument over the alleged refusal of INEC to release the documents to the party.
The respondents in the petition marked CA/PEPC/PC/03/2023 are Tinubu, Shettima and the APC, listed as 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively.
While advancing his arguments Wednesday, Obi’s lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, announced that the pre-hearing meeting scheduled for harmonisation of documents by counsels was not successful because the INEC refused to provide the necessary documents.
He had told the court that despite efforts by his team, they only got about 30 per cent of the required documents to prosecute the matter.
Uzoukwu said the Rivers state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) blankly refused to provide any document including form EC8A demanded for, while INEC legal officer for Sokoto state demanded for a payment of N1.5 million naira as processing fees for certified copy of the needed document.
He said despite all the efforts including visits to the IINEC Headquarters five times, they could not get more than 30 per cent of the documents.
Uzoukwu further told the court that in addition to his efforts, he had written a letter to the INEC’s counsel, detailing his predicaments on refusal of his client (INEC) to provide him with the needed documents.
Responding, counsels for the respondents cited as 1st to 4th stated that Obi was unable to access the necessary documents because of his failure to pay the needed fees charged for certified copy.
Counsel for the INEC, Abubakar B. Mahmoud, SAN, specifically stated that his client was always willing to cooperate with parties to provide the needed documents, advising Obi’s lawyer to follow the necessary laid down protocol for accessing certified copy.
Mahmoud said a meeting between the counsels on harmonisation of documents was not successful as the LP team walked out Tuesday from the meeting.
Aligning himself with INEC’s position, Olanipkekun said the LP team failed to honour the agreement reached by the counsels.
The respondents in their separate presentations, accused Obi’s counsel of walking out of the pre-hearing meeting ordered by the court, an accusation Obi’ lawyer denied and rather said was a blackmail.
At the last sitting, Obi and the LP had told the court that the parties met and agreed to ask for an adjournment to enable them file and exchange necessary legal documents.
He had told the court that there were many processes and motions yet to be filed in the matter.
Also, INEC’s lawyer confirmed that parties met and agreed to ask for an adjournment after a brief meeting they held Wednesday afternoon.
Likewise, Tinubu and Shettima’s counsel said the adjournment was necessary “so that when we come on Wednesday all the applications will be ready for adoption.”
Agreeing with the position, counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, said his client believed that the adjournment would hasten the proceedings.
After hearing out the parties, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel adjourned to Friday 19th May to hear all motions.
Meanwhile, an attempt by the LP Acting National Chairman, Lamidi Apapa, and Women Leader of the party, Duba Manga to announce an appearance for the party was rejected by the panel.
Justice Tsamman ruled that since they were two opposing camps of the party, the court would not reckon with their appearance as the petitioner had announced an appearance for himself.
There was a mild drama outside the courtroom as Apapa was rattled and almost beaten up by some Obidients supporters.
The rampaging loyalists of the embattled factional Chairman, Julius Abure, were seen preventing Apapa from addressing the press, alleging he was unknown to them.
Apapa, who despite the disruption in his way, told journalists he was the right person to represent the party.
He accused Obi of masterminding his attacks, arguing that Obi who was in court to seek justice, cannot refuse to obey court order on authenticating him as chairman.