THERE was drama at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday, May 17, as Labour Party (LP) factions clashed during the pre-hearing of the appeal filed by the party’s presidential candidate Peter Obi against President-elect Bola Tinubu.
The faction led by suspended national chairman, Julius Abure, produced Obi as presidential candidate and there are speculations that the camp headed by acting national chairman Lamidi Apapa plans to withdraw the party’s petition before the Tribunal.
The clash which occured on Wednesday was between the acting national chairman, Apapa, and Akin Osuntokun, the director general of the party’s presidential campaign committee.
Apapa had sought to sit in the seat designated for Abure, the suspended national chairman, but the move was rejected by members of Abure’s faction, led by Osuntokun.
When the petition was summoned, Apapa and the party’s National Women’s Leader, Dudu Manugu, attempted to appear on behalf of the Labour Party.
However, the Tribunal rejected their requests.
A party’s appearance won’t be noted if it is represented by two people, according to Justice Haruna Tsamani.
Obi and Abure, the suspended LP national chairman, were also in court.
The LP has been entangled in a power struggle between the Abure and Apapa camps.
On May 11, a video showed Apapa issuing a directive to all the lawyers representing the party at the Tribunal to see him within 48 hours.
In the video, which emerged shortly after an Abuja Federal High Court sitting, Apapa also said he is now in charge of the Labour Party.
When the heating eventually resumed on Wednesday, May 17, counsel for the Labour Party, Livy Uzoukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told the court that a meeting that was scheduled to decide on the documents to be offered for the hearing had not produced any results because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had only provided 30 per cent of the materials that were required from them.
He went on to argue that this violates the promise made by INEC chairman Mahmoud Yakubu to make all necessary documents available.
Uzoukwu continued by saying that the party has yet to get documents pertaining to Rivers State, where the resident electoral commissioner allegedly stated that no form EC8A were available for distribution but has failed to do so in writing despite requests.
Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, the lawyer for INEC, responded that he was surprised by the Labour Party’s claims because they had skipped the originally arranged meeting and left the rescheduled one.
The documentation for Rivers and Sokoto states were produced, according to Mahmoud, but the Labour Party refused to pay N1.5 million for Sokoto State and did not supply Form EC8A for Rivers State.
He stated that the party had received some documents but would not collect them until it was complete.
He reassured the court that they were making every effort to support the court in an open manner.
The ICIR reported that on Wednesday, May 10, the Tribunal adjourned Obi’s petition till May 17, following a request by Obi’s lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu.
Uzoukwu had informed the court of an agreement by lawyers to parties in the petition to file and exchange necessary documents for a smooth hearing of the substantive petition.
The defence lawyers, including Abubakar Mahmoud, Wole Olanipekun, and Lateef Fagbemi, who represented the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tinubu and the APC, respectively, confirmed Ozoukwu’s submissions before the court.
INEC had declared Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
According to INEC, Tinubu secured 8,794,726 votes, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had 6,984,520, while the Labour Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, polled 6,101,533.
The PDP and LP candidates rejected the result and approached the Tribunal with separate petitions to challenge Tinubu’s victory.
They alleged that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election and that he failed to secure the majority of lawful votes cast at the poll.
They are also contesting that Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim Shettima, had a double nomination contrary to the Electoral Act.
The court, which had its inaugural sitting on Monday, May 8, had dismissed the petition filed by the Action Alliance (AA) after the party withdrew it.
The ICIR had also reported that the Action Peoples Party (APP) also withdrew its case at the Tribunal.