BY Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Court of Appeal premises in Abuja, yesterday, commenced pre-trial session on the petition seeking to nullify the election of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The 5-man panel of Justices headed by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, okayed the suit for pre-trial, on a day it ordered an issuance of Forms TF 0007 [Pre- Hearing Notice] and TF 008 [Pre- Hearing Information] on counsel to both parties in the appeal.
The panel maintained that the documents contained relevant questions which it said would fast track the determination of the substantive appeal.
Vanguard gathered that the said forms contain questions relating to the number of witnesses to be called by parties, relevant documents and exhibits to be used or tendered and other important questions that would be needed for the quick dispensation of the issues in dispute.
The decision of the court was at the instance of the CPC whose counsel, Mr Abubakar Malami, moved an oral application for the forms to be formally issued to all the parties in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Although all the counsel indicated that they had copies of the forms at their disposal, however, the CPC insisted that it would prefer the court to expressly issue out new ones to them, stressing that it was not willing to take chances since the former forms were issued without the order of the court.
The legal team to President Jonathan and his Deputy, Namadi Sambo, comprising of Chief Wole Olanikpekun, Dr. Alex Izinyon , Damien Dodo Dabian Ajogwu, Ighodalo Imadegbelo, Chief Assam Assam, O.A. Omonuwa, Jude Nnodum and Paul Erokoro, who are all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, raised objections to the application, saying it was unnecessary.
Olanikpekun who led the others yesterday told the court that the application has been overtaken by event.
Despite the objections, the tribunal granted the application, directing that the requisite forms be served on the parties through their respective counsel just as the case was yesterday adjourned sine-die.
It would be recalled that the CPC had gone to court with a view to voiding the results that were garnered by the PDP in all the 17 states in the South , as well as those of Sokoto, Kaduna, Plateau, Kwara, Benue, Adamawa, Nasarawa states, in the North and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The party alleged that the ballot papers meant for certain polling units were illegally diverted to other units and were subsequently used for ballot stuffing, even as it has equally asked the tribunal to declare that president Jonathan failed to fulfill the requirement of section 134 (2) of the 1999 constitution.
It is specifically praying the tribunal to nullify the April 16 presidential election and order a re-run between it and the ruling PDP.
However, President Jonathan and his Deputy, Namadi Sambo, have since attacked the credibility of the petition urging the court to throw it out for lacking in merit.
Their position was also supported by the Peoples Democratic Party which equally filed a preliminary objection in opposition to the suit.
The defendants earlier informed the panel that it has lined up 102 witnesses made up of forensic and finger experts, a biometric analyst and a Statistician, to prove that the presidential election in which they were declared winners by the Independent National Electoral Commission ,INEC, was conducted substantially in accordance with the Electoral Act.