The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja has ordered the merger of the cases filed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to challenge the victory of Bola Tinubu as Nigeria’s president-elect.
The court, headed by Haruna Tsammani, cited time constraints as the basis for its decision.
The court has a 180-day timeline to conclude the hearing and deliver its judgment from the time the three petitions were filed in mid-March.
During a ruling on Tuesday, the court ordered the consolidation of the three pending petitions, considering Paragraph 50 of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act 2022 and emphasizing that the interest of justice would be served by such a merger.
The court instructed Mr Peter Obi and his party to present their case within three weeks, instead of the initially requested six weeks during the pre-hearing sessions.
The hearing of Mr. Obi’s substantive petition is scheduled to commence on May 30, with the expectation that his case will conclude on June 23.
The court further announced that proceedings would be conducted on a day-to-day basis from Mondays to Saturdays.
The respondents in the petition – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, and Kashim Shettima, the vice-president-elect, were granted five days each to present their defense.
Regarding the allotment of time, each petitioner will have 30 minutes to lead or cross-examine their or adverse parties’ star witnesses, while other witnesses will have 20 minutes each to testify.
The legal teams of the adverse parties will have five minutes each for re-examination.
Recall Peter Obi filed his petition challenging Tinubu’s victory on March 20, approximately 20 days after Mr. Tinubu was declared the winner of the polls by INEC.
The court’s report on Atiku and APM’s pre-hearing sessions of their petitions is still pending, but all parties involved must abide by the court’s decision to consolidate the petitions.
The petitioners, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, and APM, have alleged widespread malpractices during the conduct of the presidential election held on February 25 and are urging the court to nullify Bola Tinubu’s victory.
They have accused INEC of manipulating the electronic process in favor of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Bola Tinubu.
Atiku, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), secured second place in the race, while Peter Obi, representing the Labour Party, came third.
To address the concerns of time constraints, the chair of the panel, Haruna Tsammani, emphasized the need to consolidate the pending petitions and stated the intention to conclude proceedings and deliver judgment on all suits by September 16.
Lawyers representing the parties involved presented their arguments, with Peter Obi’s lawyer agreeing to reduce the proposed time for presenting witnesses from seven to six weeks, while INEC’s lawyer urged the court to exercise its discretion in determining the consolidation of the petitions.
Atiku’s lawyer did not oppose the merger, as they had assembled 100 witnesses to testify for the court.
However, Bola Tinubu’s lawyer and the APC disagreed with the consolidation, arguing that the proceedings would become unwieldy.