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PEPC judgment: Supreme Court’s panel ready next week as PDP kicks against inclusion of CJN

 

Barring any last-minute change in plan, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, will constitute the Supreme Court panel that will hear the appeal arising from the judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) latest on Wednesday, the Punch reported.


The PEPC had on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, delivered a 12-hour judgment on the appeals arising from the February 25, 2023 presidential election, upholding the election of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress.


The presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi respectively rejected the court’s judgment, vowing to approach the Supreme Court.


They had 14 days from the day the judgment was delivered to file their appeal at the apex court.


That 14-day timeline ends on Wednesday.


While their legal teams are working hard to beat the deadline, an investigation at the Supreme Court on Friday revealed that Ariwoola had yet to constitute the panel of the apex court that will hear the appeals.


Further investigation, however, further revealed that the CJN will constitute the panel latest on Wednesday when the timeline for the filing of the appeals will end.


Multiple sources at the apex court also said the identities of the Justices that may be named members of the panel were still unknown.


One of the sources at the court said, “There is no information about the panel or the justices that would make up the panel for now. What we know is that members of the panel may be named this week, latest by Wednesday.”


It was learnt on Friday that Obi’s legal team may file an appeal on Tuesday.


It was further gathered that the presidential candidate is not planning to change members of his legal team.


The spokesman of the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko; and the National Legal Adviser of LP, Kehinde Edun, disclosed these in separate interviews with Saturday PUNCH.


“I just confirmed that we have not filed the appeal. That will be done between now and Tuesday. We are also not seeking to engage or tweak our team of lawyers,” Tanko told one of our correspondents on the telephone.


Agreeing with Tanko, the party’s legal adviser also said, “We have not filed the appeal yet because we are still within the time frame. It will be done any moment from now.


“To answer your other question, our legal team is still intact. They are some of our best hands. There is no reason to change them since we do not doubt their capabilities.”


When contacted, Obi’s lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, also said the legal team was still working on the appeal, saying, “We are on it. We have not fixed a date to submit.”


A member of Atiku’s legal team, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, also said, “We are filing the appeal as soon as possible, within the constitutional and statutory period. All the lawyers are retained. Our team is intact and as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar.”


The ex-vice president’s lead counsel, Chris Uche, SAN, could not be reached for comment as calls and messages to his line were not answered on Friday.


PDP NEC member on CJN

Meanwhile, the Deputy National Youth Leader of the PDP, Timothy Osadolor, has advised the CJN not to be part of the panel of the Supreme Court that will review the PEPC judgment.


Osadolor stated this against the backdrop of a statement credited to the CJN in the past, endorsing Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde’s membership of the G-5, a group made up of some aggrieved governors opposed to Iyorchia Ayu’s chairmanship of the PDP after Atiku emerged as the party’s candidate.


In November 2022 as special guest of the Rivers State Government in Port Harcourt at a banquet organised in honour of the then Governor, Nyesom Wike; Justice Ariwoola lauded Makinde’s membership of G-5; a development that was criticised by the National Working Committee of the PDP at the time.


“That is why we should not be scared to have these men of the integrity group. I am happy that my own Governor (Makinde) is among them because he would try to imitate his friend and in-law because we came here to marry for my Governor.


“So, Governor Wike will always threaten that he will call back his sister if my Governor fails to play ball. That is why you see him following His Excellency (Wike) because my Governor is afraid of his wife being recalled,” the CJN said in 2022.


Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, Osadolor said, “I would expect the CJN after the gaffe wherein he exposed his partisan self with his declaration of support for the then G-5 when he got too excited, to recuse himself from any panel that is constituted for political reasons, particularly one as sensitive and important as the one to look into the PEPC judgment that is contentious and vexatious for a wide range of reasons.


“He should not do anything to taint the image of our judiciary further. The whole world is watching and he of all people should know better that his membership of the panel would raise several questions.”


As of the time of filing this report, neither of the two official spokespersons of the party, Debo Ologunagba and Ibrahim Abdullahi, was ready for comment.


On his part, Atiku’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, promised to reach out to one of our correspondents “after getting legal advice.”


Candidates retaining lawyers

Tinubu, Atiku and Obi will be retaining the 89 Senior Advocates of Nigeria they hired for the legal battle.


Ahead of the sittings of the PEPC, Aiku hired 19 SANs, Obi secured the services of 20 SANs while Tinubu engaged 50, making a total of 89.


Just like in the case of Obi and Atiku, the coordinator of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala, in an interview with one of our correspondents said the President’s legal team would be retained. “Why do we have to change our lawyers? We don’t need any fresh people. We have more than enough lawyers in our legal team,” Ogala said.


 

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