By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, asked the Presidential Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja to strike out the petition entered before it by the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, on the ground that it was filed on a Sunday which it said was not a working day.
In a notice of preliminary objection it filed through its lead counsel, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN, yesterday, PDP, relied on Section 137 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Order 3 Rule 9 of the Court of Appeal Rules 2011, Order 46 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 and Paragraphs 4 (d) and 47 (1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended), to contend that the Registry of the tribunal ought not to have accepted CPC’s petition on Sunday, May 8, stressing that the day the petition was filed rendered it “dies non-juridicus.”
PDP equally contended that the Public Holidays Act, CAP P40 LFN, 2004, was even more explicit in its exclusion of Sundays from the list of working days, noting that Section 4 of the Act specifically provided that “No person shall be compellable to do any act on a day appointed by or under the provisions of this Act to be kept as a public holiday which he would not be compellable to do on a Sunday.
“Thus section 4 of the Public Holidays Act clearly sets Sundays as the benchmark for Public Holidays. The pertinent question is whether or not a court can sit or validly transact court business on a Public Holiday”.
Meanwhile, PDP in the alternative, wants the tribunal to strike out the names of the Chief National Electoral Officer, Prof. Attahiru Jega and the Resident Electoral Commissioners in all the 36 states and the FCT, on the ground that they are not necessary parties to the petition.
It also urged the Justice Isa Ayo Salami led five-man panel to strike out some paragraphs of the petition containing complaints against the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security, the Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Army, on the premise that the petitioner failed to join them as necessary parties in the matter.
“We urge this Honorable Tribunal to dismiss and/or strike out the entire Petition as same was filed on a Public Holiday, or in the alternative strike out Paragraphs 14 (d) (iv) and 38 of the Petition as the said paragraphs are incompetent due to the Non-Joinder of the Parties mentioned and strike out the names of the 2nd, 6th- 42nd Respondents as the joinder of these officers as parties to the Petition is prohibited under the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended).
“By virtue of Section 137 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) it is no longer proper in law to join Electoral Officers as parties to an Election Petition having already sued the Electoral Commission itself, the Police, the Army and Civil Security are definitely not staff of INEC and must therefore still be afforded the chance to defend themselves against allegations leveled against them, particularly when they are criminal in nature. This is because the Tribunal can decide in favour of the Petitioner in respect of the said Criminal allegations”.
“The criminal allegations like Ballot box snatching, Voters’ intimidation, bribery, corruption, partisanship and dereliction of duty leveled against the Police, the Army and Civil Security, make it imperative that they be joined as parties to this suit, particularly in respect of the paragraphs of the Petition and the Witness Statements of the Petitioner in which they are so accused because if these issues are resolved in their favour or against them, it will substantially affect the Petition positively or negatively.
“The Petitioner’s non-joinder of the Police, the Army and Civil Security negatively affects the Petition in respect of the paragraphs in which their names are mentioned. As the saying goes, you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence.
This is what the Petitioner seeks to do with its Petition wherein it seeks to persuade this court to resolve its criminal allegations against the Police, the Army and Civil Security without hearing them or giving them a chance to defend themselves
“We urge this Honourable Court to strike out Paragraphs 14 (d) (iv) and 38 of the Petition as well as the various paragraphs of the Witness Statements in which the Police, the Army and Civil Security are alleged to have committed Electoral Offences as they go to no issue, the parties against whom they are leveled, having not been joined”, PDP insisted.
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