The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, on Monday, opposed the move to consolidate the three different petitions that are seeking to nullify the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, maintained that merging all the petitions would adversely affect his ability to effectively defend all the issues that were raised against him by the petitioners.
“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,” Tinubu pleaded, stressing that the petitioners did not only raise various issues against him, but equally seeking different reliefs.
It will be recalled that the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, has disclosed its intention to consolidate all the petitions.
The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel of the court said it was empowered by Paragraph 50 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, to merge all the petitions and determine them together.
It, therefore, gave counsel for all the petitioners the permission to consult their clients and report back to it with the outcome of the meeting.
Consequently, at the resumed proceedings on Monday, Tinubu’s lawyer argued that provision of the Electoral Act the court referred to, 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.
“I most humbly urge your lordships not to grant the consolidation,” Tinubu’s lawyer added.
Earlier, counsel for the APC, Mr. Charles Edosomwam, SAN, argued that consolidating the petitions would be against the interest 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.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said though it was not opposed to the proposed consolidation of the petition, it would leave the issue to the court’s discretion.
Aside from Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who came second in the election, and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, who came third, the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, equally lodged a petition to challenge the outcome of the presidential election.
Though five petitions were initially filed to challenge the return of Tinubu as winner of the election, however, the Action Alliance, AA, on May 8, withdrew its case, even as the Action Peoples Party, APP, followed suit two days later by also discontinuing further proceedings on its own petition
Meantime, the court said it would on Tuesday, present its pre-hearing report on the petitions.