…Court Attempts to Bar Phones, Recording Gadgets from Court Room Insights into the outlook of the petition filed by the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party Alhaji Atiku Abubakar(PDP) and the Party against Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged on Saturday as all the parties said they would be
…Court Attempts to Bar Phones, Recording Gadgets from Court Room
Insights into the outlook of the petition filed by the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party Alhaji Atiku Abubakar(PDP) and the Party against Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged on Saturday as all the parties said they would be calling 166 witnesses.
It is expected that real legal fireworks would commence next week as all the parties in the petition have also agreed not to object to documents certified by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
With these two issues sorted out, the Alhaji Abubakar’s case against Senator Tinubu’s election is set to enter a critical stage of trial, after about two weeks of pre-hearing sessions. All the parties have also listed the witnesses they would call during the trial on Saturday.
Alhaji Abubakar said he intends to call 100 witnesses to prove his case while Senator Tinubu is prepared to defend his victory with 39 witnesses in the Abubakar’s case and INEC informed the court that it would call two witnesses. While the APC disclosed that the party would present 25 witnesses to defend its victory.
Alhaji Abubakar and PDP’s lead Counsel, Chief Chris Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), reeled out the agreements of parties to the suit concerning the number of witnesses to be called, the allotted time for witnesses to testify and the procedures for tendering documents from expert witnesses.
His words: “We intend to call not more than one hundred witnesses. For the time, we want to take three weeks instead of the statutory seven weeks,” Chief Uche said adding: “We have also agreed to streamline the number of witnesses as well as the duration for each party to call witnesses, subject to ratification by the court.”
Chief Uche said lawyers to parties in the petition agreed that the star witnesses for both the petitioners and respondents would have 30 minutes each to testify. “We are proposing 30 minutes each for star witnesses, while we are proposing 15 minutes for each respondents for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.” He said other witnesses would take 10 minutes for cross-examination, while re-examination of witnesses would take five minutes.
At the pre-hearing session on Saturday, Senator Tinubu’s lawyer, Mr. Roland Otaru SAN said his client would present 39 witnesses to aid his defence at the court. Senator Tinubu’s legal team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN would need nine days to prove its case. According to him, “the report of any expert witness must be made available to other parties 48 hours before the calling of such witnesses. We also agreed that the schedule of documents to be filed by parties must be served on all parties before the calling of witnesses,” Mr Otaru informed the court.
He, however, proposed 20 instead of the 30 minutes that was proposed by Chief Uche for expert witnesses to testify. On his part, INEC’s lawyer, Mr. A. B. Mahmoud, informed the court that the electoral umpire would call two witnesses. The APC represented by Chief Solomon Umoh SAN disclosed that the party would present 25 witnesses to defend its victory.
After listening to the proposals for the hearing of the substantive petition, the five-member panel of the Court headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, adjourned the suit until 22 May.
Justice Tsammani directed parties in the petition to address the court on the issue of consolidation of the three petitions challenging Senator Tinubu’s victory.
The Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) filed separate petitions to upturn Mr Tinubu’s victory.
Meanwhile there was confusion at the commencement of the Presidential Tribunal early Saturday morning as Lawyers, journalists and others interested in monitoring proceedings were asked to drop their phones and other recording gadgets including laptops before stepping into the courtroom.
Visitors to the Court were welcomed with a notice pasted at the three entrances asking them to drop their phones and other recording gadgets. This was quite surprising because that has not been the usual practice. This led to some uproar and wild condemnation.
The Court’s Secretary later came down to apologise describing the action as “a directive from above”. Everybody was then allowed entrance into the Courtroom with their phones and gadgets.
One Lawyer exclaimed that ‘today’s action is suggestive of what should be expected on the Court’s ruling on live telecast of the Tribunal’s proceedings”.