By; Evelyn Okakwu
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has asked the Presidential election petition tribunal to strike out the petition brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the success of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 election.
The PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are challenging the declaration of Mr Buhari by INEC as winner of the February 23 presidential elections in the country.
In a motion brought by the Commission through its lawyer, Hustaz Usman, INEC asked the court to strike out the application for the failure of the PDP to include the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, as a co-winner in the election.
According to Mr Usman, the failure of the PDP to include Mr Osinbajo in the petition should not be taken lightly because whatever affects Mr Buhari in the election would definitely affect his running mate.
In a reaction to the application, the PDP counsel, Levi Uzoukwu, described the application by INEC as “unusual” and asked the court to “strike out the application and help INEC maintain its neutrality.”
Mr Usman’s applications were heard after a fierce contest during which the counsel for Mr Buhari, Wole Olanipekun, who quoted various sections of the law to persuade the court on the need to entertain the interlocutory applications before the main matter.
After hearing the arguments of Mr Olanipekun, the Court agreed to entertain the interlocutory applications before the main matter.
Subsequently, Mr Usman said INEC had brought four applications seeking to ensure that the court dismisses the petition. He however added that they withdrew the fourth application against the petition and asked the court to have it struck out.
After hearing the applications, the tribunal chairman, Mohammed Garba, reserved ruling till a date to be communicated later.
Mr Garba is the new presidential tribunal chairman, who took over following the withdrawal of the Court’s President, Zainab Bulkachuwa, from the position.
Mrs Bulkachuwa withdrew from the tribunal after a petition was brought against her by the PDP and Mr Atiku.
The party accused Mrs Bulkachuwa of having questionable ties with the ruling APC and consequently been prone to bias in the hearing of their petition.
Mr Garba who hails from Zamfara Stata was until his appointment at the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Zamfara State High Court.
According to the provisions of the constitution, Mr Atiku’s petition is supposed to be concluded with 180 days after it was filed.
Dated March 18, the petition is already about 85 days since it was written and filed at the tribunal.