The Presidential Election Petition Court on Tuesday gave the pre-hearing report on the ongoing petition challenging the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
The court also presented the trial schedule on the same day.
The chairman of the five-man panel of the court, Justice Haruna Tsammani, read the pre-hearing report, which included the declaration of the court’s decision to consolidate all three surviving petitions to be heard as one.
Three political parties are challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Party as the winner of the 2023 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The petitioners, which were hitherto five, are the Labour Party and its candidate, Peter Obi, the Allied Peoples Movement, which is the sole petitioner in its case; and the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Whereas the INEC left the consolidation decision to the panel, the APC and other respondents in the petition opposed the idea.
However, the five-member panel of the court led by Justice Tsammani, in a unanimous decision on Tuesday, dismissed the objections raised against the merger by the Tinubu, the APC, the vice-president-elect, Kashim Shettima, and Kabir Masari, all respondents in the case.
The court maintained that the demand for justice supports the consolidation to aid the speedy dispensation of justice.
It held that the three petitions all speak to the same subject matter being the 2023 election and the return of the president-elect, Tinubu.
Furthermore, the court announced that the hearing of the petition would commence on May 30, 2023.
On the subject of time to present its case, the court directed Obi and the LP to do so within three weeks, against their proposed seven weeks within which they had planned to prove their case against Tinubu through 50 witnesses.
It assigned five days each to the INEC, APC and Tinubu to defend their case.
Obi, through his counsel, Awa Kalu, SAN, had requested seven weeks to establish their case against the disputed election.
However, Justice Tsammani ordered Obi to open his petition for hearing on May 30 and end the same on June 23.
More so, the court stated that Obi’s camp would adopt its final briefs of argument on August 5, after which the court would prepare for judgement on his petition.
In addition, the panel emphasised that examination and cross-examination in all cases will be strictly monitored and enforced without an intention to extend the dates.
Meanwhile, the Justice Tsammani-led panel indicated that it may subsequently disallow phones into the courtroom.
The court stressed that it is acting with reason, adding that the “security of everyone is important,” among other justifications.
Following the presentation of the schedule in Obi’s petition, which came up first, the court, in a similar fashion, fixed May 30 as day one in the hearing of the petitions by the Allied Peoples Movement and the Peoples Democratic Party, now consolidated.
As in the case of LP and Obi, both parties did not object to the duly signed and certified documents by INEC but reserved the right to object to other documents.
Likewise, they both disagreed with an out-of-court settlement agreement and subscribed to the hearing of the petition.
The APM, which has one witness, was directed to present its case within two days.
More so, according to the pre-hearing report by the court, the PDP and Atiku have ten interlocutory applications with nine preliminary objections by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents.
While the APM is to adopt its brief of argument on July 3, 2023, the PDP and Atiku are to adopt theirs on August 8, 2023.
The PDP and its candidate, Atiku, had informed the court of their arrangement to prove their case through 100 witnesses; the court granted them three weeks to do so.
With the pre-hearing report presented and the schedule announced, the petition has entered a more critical period, counting down from May 30, and the sessions will spiral into the weekends – specifically on Saturdays.