Barring any last-minute change in plan, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, will constitute the Supreme Court panel that will hear the appeal arising from the judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Court latest on Wednesday.
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 by Saturday PUNCH 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.”
Saturday PUNCH also learnt on Friday that Obi’s legal team may file an appeal on Tuesday.
Our correspondents 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 exclusively 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.
APC, LP, PDP lose NASS seats
Meanwhile, the PDP has so far lost 11 National Assembly seats, while the APC forfeited six seats and the LP could not retain eight slots.
Also, the New Nigerian Peoples Party lost three seats, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance lost two.
Saturday PUNCH reports that the APC won 162 House of Representatives seats in the National Assembly elections held on February 25 while its closest rival, the PDP, took 102 seats and the LP won 34 seats.
The NNPP on its part won 18 seats while the Social Democratic Party and APGA got two and four seats respectively.
Also, the African Democratic Congress won two seats just as the Young Progressives Party had one seat.
In the Senate, the APC won 57 seats while the PDP and the LP got 29 and six seats respectively.
The NNPP and the SDP got two seats each, while APGA and the YPP got a seat each.
However, after the judgment of the election petition tribunals across the country, the APC lost some seats and gained the highest number of National Assembly seats with 10 seats, PDP got four, while LP won two seats and APGA won one.
The tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, sacked three LP’s House of Representative members and ordered a rerun in one constituency.
The tribunal declared Chief Daniel Okeke of the APC as the winner of the February 25, 2023 election for the Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency and ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to LP’s Okwara Osonwa.
Another tribunal sitting in Umuahia sacked the lawmaker representing Aba North/South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Emeka Nnamani and declared Alex Ikwechegh of APGA winner of the seat.
A rerun was ordered for Osisioma/Obingwa/Ugwunagbo Federal Constituency of the state and LP’s Munachim Alozie was sacked.
In Isuikwato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, APC’s Nkiruka Onyejeocha who is currently the Minister of State for Labour was declared winner while LP’s Amobi Ogah’s victory was nullified.
The tribunal in Anambra State nullified the declaration of APGA’s Uchenna Elodimmuo for Nnewi North/South and Ekwusigo Constituency and called for a supplementary election.
A rerun was also ordered in Oyi and Ayamelum Constituency, while the declaration of APGA’s Maureen Gwacham by the Independent National Electoral Commission was nullified.
The election that brought in PDP’s Fred Agbadi as a member of the House of Representatives for Sagbama/Ekeremor Constituency of Bayelsa State was set aside as inconclusive.
In Benue North-East Senatorial District, Emmanuel Udende of APC was sacked, while PDP’s Gabriel Suswam was declared the winner by the tribunal.
In Cross River, INEC was ordered to retrieve the Certificate of Return issued to APC’s Emil Inyang as the winner of Akamkpa-Biase Constituency, while a supplementary election was ordered in 19 polling units.
The tribunal in Asaba, Delta State also declared the election of Delta South Senator, APC’s Thomas Onowakpo, inconclusive and ordered a re-run.
The tribunal declared the Delta Central Senatorial District election inconclusive and ordered that the CoR issued to Senator Ede Dafinone of the APC be withdrawn while the three-member tribunal headed by Justice W.I. Kpochi ordered a re-run in 48 units across four out of eight local government areas in the district.
Similarly, the tribunal sacked a member of the House of Representatives, Ngozi Okolie representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency on the platform of LP and declared the candidate of the PDP, Ndudi Elumelu, winner.
In Enugu East/Isi-Uzo Constituency, LP’s Sunday Nnamchi was sacked while PDP’s Cornelius Nnaji was declared the winner.
For Ihitte Uboma and Mbano Constituency in Imo State, PDP’s Jonas Okeke was sacked while APC’s Chike Okafor was declared winner, while Ikenga Ugochinyere of the PDP for Ideato North and South Constituency was sacked and the tribunal ordered a rerun between Pascal Obi of LP and APC’s Chika Abazu.
Meanwhile in Kano, the NNPP lost three seats to the APC.
While NNPP’s Idris Dankawu was sacked, Munir Agundi of the APC was declared the winner of the Kumbotso Constituency.
For the Kano Tarauni Constituency, NNPP’s Muktar Yerima was sacked while APC’s Hafiz Kawu was declared the winner.
Also for the Kura/Madobi/Garun Malam Constituency, NNPP’s Yusuf Datti was sacked while APC’s Musa Kwankwaso was declared the winner.
Similarly in Katsina State, the PDP lost two of its seats in the National Assembly to the APC while one was declared inconclusive by the tribunal.
For Katsina, Kankia-Kusada-Ingawa Constituency, PDP’s Ismail Kusada was sacked while APC’s Abubakar Kusada was declared the winner.
Also for Katsina Central Constituency, the tribunal sacked PDP’s Aminu Chindo while it declared APC’s Sani Aliyu as the winner
The election that brought in Jamilu Muhammad of the PDP for Kankara-Faskari-Sabuwa and Batsari-Safana-Danmusa Constituencies was declared inconclusive.
For Kogi Central Senatorial District, APC’s Abubakar Ohere was sacked while PDP’s Natasha Uduaghan was declared the winner.
Also, the Senator representing Kogi East in the National Assembly, Jibrin Echocho was sacked and the tribunal ordered a supplementary election in 94 polling units.
The tribunal in Lagos ordered a rerun in Eti-Osa Constituency nullifying the victory of LP’s Thaddeus Atta.
Also, the election that produced the LP candidate, Seyi Sowunmi, House of Representatives member, Ojo Federal Constituency in the state was annulled by the election petition tribunal and Lanre Ogunyemi of the APC was declared the winner.
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Minna, Niger State ordered INEC to set aside the victory of Joshua Gana of the PDP, in the February 25 National Assembly election and ordered for a rerun in 23 polling units of Edati, Lavun and Mokwa Federal Constituency.
In Plateau State, the elections of four National Assembly members of the PDP were nullified.
Beni Lar of Langtang North/Langtang South Federal constituency was sacked while APC’s Vincent Bulus was declared the winner.
Also, the representative of Jos South /Jos East, Musa Bagos was sacked while Alfred Iliya of LP was declared the winner.
Peter Gyendeng representing Barkin-Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency was sacked, while LP’s Fom Dalyop was declared the winner.
Also, Napoleon Bali, representing Plateau South Senatorial District, was sacked while the immediate past governor of the state, Simon Lalong, who is currently Minister of Labour and Employment was declared the winner.