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Strike may delay Atiku, Obi’s appeal, stall tribunal sittings

The Supreme Court may institute the panel that will hear the appeal of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, and his counterpart in the Labour Party, Peter Obi next week, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

The duo had on September 19 filed 86 grounds of appeal at the Supreme Court, praying the court to nullify the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.

The petitioners had alleged that there was non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act 2022 during the conduct of the election.

They also alleged that the President, Bola Tinubu, was not qualified to contest the election, among others.

However, the tribunal led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, in a unanimous decision held that Atiku and Obi, as well as other petitioners did not substantiate their claims of irregularities in the presidential election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The justices stated that the documentary and oral evidence presented before them could not prove the claims of irregularities, corrupt practices, non-compliance with the electoral guidelines, and other allegations for which the petitioners had asked the court to nullify the election.

A top source at the apex court who did not want his name in print because he was not authorised to speak on the matter said the panel could be instituted next week.

The source said, “Well, let us look at next week. All things being equal, it should not go beyond next week. But the issue is the strike; we hope it does not disrupt things.

“I can’t pick the day but hopefully next week, we should have a panel in place. I can’t say the number of the justices and the names that will make the panel.”

The Supreme Court Director of Information, Dr Festus Akande, could not be reached for comment on the matter as calls to his lines were not answered, and was had to respond to a message sent to him on the matter.

Meanwhile, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s legal team, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and National Legal Adviser of the Labour Party, Kehinde Edun, have expressed optimism that the impending strike of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress won’t affect their appeal at the Supreme Court.

 The development is coming barely one month after the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which reaffirmed President Bola Tinubu as the winner of the contentious February 25 election.

 The LP Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi, and his counterpart in PDP filed 86 grounds of appeal at the Supreme Court to nullify the judgment.

 But with the proposed industrial action of the organized labor kicking off on October 3, there is a palpable fear among Nigerians that the strike may stall the case in the Supreme Court.

Ozekhome in an interview with Saturday PUNCH in Abuja on Friday said the strike might not be binding on the Supreme Court.

He stated, “I don’t think the strike will stall the case. The case like all election petitions is time-sensitive and time-bound.

“The strike may be indefinite, but the Supreme Court will not comply because the case is time-bound.”

Also speaking, Edun dismissed the notion, saying they were optimistic that the Federal Government would have resolved the impasse before the sitting of the apex court.

He said, “Let’s wait and see. I expect the government to quickly resolve the issues surrounding the strike before it gets out of hand. That is just my hope.

“We are also hoping the apex court can constitute a panel quickly so that they can listen to the case. The problem here is that even the court is understaffed at the moment.

“Only 11 justices are remaining at the Supreme Court and, if we are to go by the Constitution, they are supposed to be 21 (maximum). To me, 11 is too short. given the volume of what they have to do.

“Nevertheless, I don’t expect that strike to disrupt things. But no matter what happens, they must sit.”

But the chief spokesman for the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said they were more concerned about the hardship and harrowing experience of Nigerians than worry about the possibility of the strike disrupting the legal setting.