The President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) expressed their opposition on Monday, 22nd May, to the consolidation of the three separate petitions aimed at invalidating the outcome of the 2023 Presidential election.
Tinubu, represented by his team of lawyers led by Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, argued that merging the petitions would hinder his ability to effectively address all the issues raised against him by the petitioners.
Tinubu prayed the court, saying: “My lords, the issue of justice should be a restraint on the power of this court to exercise its discretion in granting the order for consolidation.” He explained that the petitioners not only raised multiple issues against him but also sought different reliefs.
It should be recalled that the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja announced its plan to consolidate all the petitions.
The presiding Judge of the 5-member panel, Justice Haruna Tsammani, then stated that it had the power, as stipulated in Paragraph 50 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, to merge the petitions and adjudicate them collectively.
In light of this, the court granted permission to the petitioners’ counsel to confer with their clients and return with the outcome of the consultation.
Consequently, during the proceedings on Monday, Tinubu’s attorney argued that the provision of the Electoral Act referenced by the court was not absolute.
“My lords, when the exercise of power is subject to limitation of some conditions, then it cannot be said that the exercise is mandatory.
“There are issues raised in one petition that are not there in others. The issues vary. The same goes for evidential issues that are based on pleadings that have been exchanged by parties in this case.
“We want to make it clear at this stage that it will be absolutely difficult for us to consent to consolidation of the petitions.”
The lawyer added, “I most humbly urge your lordships not to grant the consolidation.”
Earlier, the APC counsel, Mr. Charles Edosomwam, SAN, argued that consolidating the petitions would work against justice.
“The justice factor is a major issue for consideration before your lordships can arrive at a just conclusion of these matters.
“The grounds are different and the wide range of issues raised by parties are also different.
“The trial will be unwindy and major issues before this court would be lost like a pin in a haystack.
“More over, it will be pragmatically impossible for the respondent to effectively defend the case.
“It is our position that the issue of justice cannot be sacrificed at the alter of convenience,” the APC added.
Nonetheless, the INEC stated that while it did not oppose the consolidation of the petitions, it would defer to the court’s discretion.
Asides Atiku Abubakar of PDP, who came second in the election, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), who came third, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) also filed a petition contesting the outcome of the Presidential election.
Initially, 5 petitions were submitted challenging Tinubu’s victory in the election. However, on 8th May, the Action Alliance (AA) withdrew its case. Two days later, the Action Peoples Party (APP) also discontinued its proceedings regarding their petition.
Meanwhile, the court announced that it would present its pre-hearing report on the petitions on Tuesday, 23rd May.