The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja on Thursday heard arguments on an application seeking to withdraw the Peoples Democratic Movement as a party to a petition challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019, presidential election.
The Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal of five judges said it would return by 1pm, Thursday, to deliver its ruling on the application.
The election petition filed jointly in the names of the party and its presidential candidate, Pastor Aminchi Habu, seeks the nullification of February 23, 2019, presidential election on the grounds of their alleged wrongful exclusion from the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The respondents to the petition are the INEC, Buhari and the All Progressives Congress.
But the National Chairman of the party, Chief Frank Igwebuike, had in the name of the party, applied to the tribunal for the withdrawal of the party from the petition.
In a motion filed before the five-man tribunal on July 9, the PDM National Chairman stated that the party had “in its wisdom re-evaluated the probability of the petition succeeding and decided to withdraw from the petition”.
The application was anchored on a certain March 5, 2019, letter credited to the Independent National Electoral Commission acknowledging the party’s list of candidates submitted for the 2019 general elections but informing the party that “the period of submission of candidates has passed”.
But the PDM’s presidential candidate, Habu, and some other members of the National Working Committee have opposed Igwebuike’s application, insisting that the party would prosecute the case to the end.
The National Secretary of the PDM, Abubakar Gwada, said in a counter-affidavit opposing the application that the party “is still very much interested in support of the instant petition and a decision to withdraw the name of the 2nd petitioner (PDM) from this petition can only be taken by the National Executive Committee of the party or the National Working Committee of the party”.
Urging the tribunal to dismiss the motion seeking the party’s withdrawal from the petition, Gwada stated that Igwebuike “is acting alone” as he allegedly did not have the authority of the PDM to depose to the affidavit file in support of the motion or file the motion on behalf of the party.
Gwada stated that, on his part, he had the authority of not just the PDM, but also the authorities of its presidential candidate, Habu, who doubles as the party’s National Financial Secretary, the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee of the party to depose to the counter-affidavit opposing the motion being promoted by Igwebuike.
The party’s National Secretary said the petition was jointly filed with the consent of the party and was being financed solely by Habu.
He said since the filing of the petition, neither the party’s NEC nor its NWC of which he is their secretary and convener of their meetings had met or deliberated on any issue relating to the withdrawal of the party from the petition.
On Thursday, Aliyu Lemu, the lawyer who claimed to be representing both the PDM and its presidential candidate, and Morrison Onunu, the counsel who claimed to have the authority of the party to file the application seeking the party’s withdrawal from the petition, adopted their counter papers on Thursday.
The respondents’ lawyers – Yunus Usman (SAN), for INEC, Alex Izinyon (SAN), for Buhari, and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), for the APC, said they were not opposed to the application for withdrawal.
The tribunal subsequently rose promising to return to deliver its ruling at 1pm.