Abraham Smith, Abuja.
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja has gone on a 30-minute break shortly after the Wednesday’s proceedings started.
The tribunal is to resume sitting at 11:20 a.m. to hear an application filed by the petitioners, the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate in the February 23 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, seeking the disqualification of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, as a member and the head of the tribunal.
The tribunal went on a break following a request by the petitioners’ lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), who said he and his team members needed time to go through the responses to the petitioners’ application which were served on him shortly before the Wednesday’s sitting began.
The petitioners are via their application challenging Bulkachuwa’s continued participation in the proceedings on the grounds of alleged likelihood of bias which they premised on the judge’s family ties to top members of the All Progressives Congress.
Atiku and PDP’s petition before the tribunal is challenging the victory of APC and its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 23 poll.
Requesting for a break on Wednesday, the petitioners’ lead counsel, Uzoukwu, described the late service of the counter-affidavit opposing the application, which had since been served on May 16, as an ambush.
He said, “Our application was filed on May 16, 2019, Surprisingly, 13 minutes ago, the 3rd respondent served on us their counter-affidavit running into 23 pages.
“That looks like an ambush to me.
“Also this morning, about 15 minutes ago the second defendant also served us theirs. That one we had sufficient time to go through it.
“My lords we shall be asking for a stand down for 20 minutes to enable us to go through the 2nd respondent’s counter-affidavit.”
The legal teams of the three respondents – the Independent National Electoral Commission, Buhari and APC, did not object to the request for a break.
Mr. Yunus Usman (SAN) led INEC’s legal team, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) led that of Buhari, and Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) led that of APC.
Ruling, the tribunal granted 30 minutes break adding 10 minutes to the 20 minutes requested by the petitioners’ team.