The legal team of the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, received criticism from the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja on Thursday for causing delays in the proceedings of their case challenging President Bola Tinubu’s victory in the 2019 presidential polls.
The panel of five judges expressed dissatisfaction with the opposition candidate’s legal team for failing to properly organize the schedule of documents for seamless tendering as exhibits.
This reprimand occurred just a day after Peter Obi’s legal team requested an adjournment of proceedings due to the ill health of one of its members. The court expressed disappointment at the team’s inability to present the required documents schedule during the pre-hearing stage.
The hearing was momentarily suspended to allow the lawyers, led by Awa Kalu, a professor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to rectify the situation.
Upon resuming the hearing, the panel noted that the documents presented by one of the petitioners’ legal team members, Emeka Okpoko, also a SAN, still did not meet the specified requirements set during the pre-hearing stage. As a result, the judges advised Peter Obi’s team to take an adjournment to properly organize the documents before tendering them.
One of the panel members, Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf, criticized the petitioners’ team for wasting the court’s time, stating that the poor arrangement of the documents would lead to confusion for both the team and the court. The court suggested that the team should go back and rearrange the documents in a sequence to facilitate their understanding and that of the court.
Despite the appeal, Awa Kalu requested the court to allow his team to tender the documents they had rather than taking an adjournment, as they had already lost a day. The court granted permission for the petitioners to proceed, after which they announced their intention to challenge the election results in 18 out of the 36 states.
During the proceedings, the petitioners tendered the certified true copies of electoral documents obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as exhibits. These documents mainly consisted of Forms EC8A, which are election results from polling units. The court admitted the documents as exhibits and marked them accordingly.
INEC, who issued the documents to the petitioners, objected to their admissibility as evidence. Representing INEC, Kemi Pinheiro, a SAN, voiced their objection. Similarly, the counsel for President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima, whose elections are being challenged, opposed the admissibility of the electoral documents. Adebayo Adelodun, a SAN, represented President Tinubu, and Afolabi Fashanu represented Vice-President Shettima. The reasons for their objections will be presented in their final addresses.
The tendered and admitted documents list includes Forms EC8A from 15 local government areas of Rivers, 23 local government areas of Benue, 18 in Cross River, 23 in Niger, 20 in Osun, and 16 in Ekiti.
Peter Obi and the Labour Party are challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima based on allegations of electoral malpractices during the February 25 presidential election.