The Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) on Saturday directed parties that filed the three surviving petitions before it to consult on their possible consolidation.
In one of the petitions marked CA/PEPC/05/2023, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, its presidential candidate are challenging the outcome of the Feb. 25 presidential election.
INEC declared Sen. Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner.
Respondents in the petition are INEC, Sen. Bola Tinubu and the APC.
The other petitions challenging the outcome of the election are those filed by Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi and one filed by the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
The PEPC panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani gave the directive on consolidation of the petitions in Abuja after parties involved gave their proposals on modalities to adopt for proceedings.
Tsammani directed the parties to consult and examine if the petitions could be consolidated in consonance with Paragraph 50 of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act.
Paragraph 50 of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act states: “Where two or more petitions are presented in relation to the same election or return, all the petitions shall be consolidated, considered and be dealt with as one petition unless the Tribunal or Court shall otherwise direct in order to do justice or an objection against one or more of the petitions has been upheld by the Tribunal or Court.’’
The court adjourned proceedings till Monday1 for the parties to revert to it on the consolidation of the three surviving petitions.
Earlier, Mr Chris Uche (SAN), counsel for the PDP and Abubakar, informed the court that parties had agreed on number of witnesses to call, time to be allotted for examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination.
He added that the agreement reached was subject to ratification by the court, however.
Uche explained that for star witnesses, parties proposed 30 minutes for evidence-in-chief: 15 minutes for cross-examination by respondents, and five minutes for re-examination.
He added that for other witnesses, 10 minutes was allotted for examination-in-chief; 10 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.
He said that for respondents, 30 minutes was allocated for star witnesses’ evidence-in-chief, 30 minutes for cross-examination while five minutes was allocated for re-examination.
He suggested also that there should not be any cross-examination by other respondents of any respondent’s witness.
He further told the court that parties were mindful of time constraints in accordance with the new amendment.
According to him, parties will bring not more than 100 witnesses.
INEC’s counsel, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) told the court that the summary by Uche was correct subject to directives by the court.
He said INEC would present two witnesses and added that in his personal opinion, the provisions of the law were clear and mandatory unless the court directed otherwise.
In their own submissions, counsel for Sen. Tinubu and the APC, Mr Roland Otaru (SAN) and Solomon Umoh (SAN) respectively, also gave their proposals.
Otaru said Tinubu would present 39 witnesses and proposed that star witnesses should be available 48 hours before appearance.
He added that the schedule of documents should be served on parties before the time of hearing.
He disagreed with Uche, counsel for Abubakar and PDP who earlier suggested that there should not be any cross-examination by other respondents in any respondent’s evidence
He argued that since there were different parties represented by different counsel, Uche’s suggestion would go against the principle of fair hearing.
Similarly, Umoh, counsel for APC told the court that the party would present 25 witnesses excluding subpoenaed witnesses.
After giving his proposals on allocation of time to witnesses, he also objected to other respondents not carrying out cross-examination of another respondent’s witness.
He urged the court to reject Uche’s suggestion, which he called “unconstitutional’’ and should not be accepted.
Counsel representing Tinubu and the one representing the APC told the court that they would like to consult with their lead counsel before taking a final stand.
Source: News Agency of Nigeria