The Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Tuesday, urged the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to stop the swearing-in ceremony of President Muhammadu Buhari slated for June 12.
The party, in its submissions at the tribunal, said it will be unfair and unjust to inaugurate Buhari on the ground that validity of the election that produced him is in contention at the tribunal.
HDP in a motion on notice filed on May 9, 2019, prayed for an order of the tribunal to stop the president from presenting himself “for inauguration on May 29 or any other date until all petitions challenging his election have been fully settled.”
The party also prayed for another order stopping the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad from inaugurating or administering oath of office and oath of allegiance on Buhari until all court actions against him are determined.
In the motion brought pursuant to Srctin 1, 6, 139, 239 of the 1999 constitution and Section 26 and 138 of the Electoral Act 2010, HDP and its Presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Albert Owuru, the two petitioners claimed that unless Buhari is stopped from been inaugurated, he will foist a state of hopelessness on the tribunal.
In the motion signed by Mike Okoye, the two petitioners said that they are challenging validity of Buhari’s election on the allegation of non compliance with the electoral laws.
They further averred that a petition, dated March 7, 2019, had been dully served on Buhari, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressive Congress (APC), who are the first, second and third respondents respectively, questioned the return of Buhari as the President elect and that parties have exchanged pleadings.
The two petitioners claimed that, in spite of the pendency and scheduled hearing of their petition against Buhari’s election, Buhari has been making frantic efforts and preparations to be sworn in and inaugurated on May 29 by inviting the CJN and the general public.
They therefore insisted that restraining order by the tribunal is appropriate to preserve the subject matter of their petition and prevent Buhari from foisting a fait acompli and state of hopelessness on the tribunal and render their petition nugatory.
In the petition marked CS/PEPC/001/2019, the petitioners “The law is settled that once the question of the validity of election of any person is challenged as to whether he is validly elected or not, that person is not competent to take office or assume the seat of power.
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prohibits and forbids that Nigeria or any part thereof be governed or taken over by any person or group of persons except in accordance with the provisions of the constitution “, they averred.
However, when the matter came up on Tuesday, counsel to the petitioners, Oliver Eya, sought to move the application but respondents in the matter claimed that they have not been served.
Buhari’s counsel, Chief Whole Olanipekun, INEC, Yunus Ustaz Usman and that of APC, Leteef Fagbemi, told the tribunal that they will need time to respond to the application when served.
President of the Court of Appeal, who is also the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, after taking arguments from parties, fixed May 22 for hearing of the motion.
Meanwhile, Buhari, through his counsel, Whole Olanipekun has filed a motion praying the tribunal to dismiss the petition of the party on the ground that it was not competent in law.
Olanipekun told the five man panel of the tribunal that what the party is challenging in the petition is a referendum conducted on February 23, adding that in law, what INEC conducted was an election and not a referendum.
Justice Bulkachuwa, in a short ruling announced that all applications in respect of the HDP petition will be heard on May 22.