The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Bauchi State, northern Nigeria, says it would hear and determine petitions challenging the election of Sen. Bala Muhammed of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria’s main opposition party, without fear or favour.
Africa News24 (AN24) understands that the Chairman of the three-man penal, Justice Salihu Shuaibu, made this known at the Pre-Hearing Conference on Monday, May 27.
Shuaibu assured that all the petitioners would be accorded equal opportunity to present their case.
The Chairman of the three-man penal said that the tribunal received four petitions.
Justice Shuaibu explained that the petitions were filed separately by three political parties contesting the election of Muhammed during the March 9 elections.
His words: ”The panel will be guided by the constitution, the electoral law and international best practices.
”I urge you to approach the issue on tendering of documents, exhibits and evidence illiberally to save time and energy, to enable us remove chaff from the grains,” he said.
He urged them to avoid prolong and protracted cross-examination of witnesses but to conform to relevant facts.
Shuaibu further said that the tribunal would take an average of ten or more witnesses per day and would sit on public holidays and Saturday.
The judge, therefore, warned against unnecessary interference.
”I urge the media to report accurately, impartially and professionally as well as to allow space and airtime for discussion, showing the strength and weakness of the case of either side or even proffering opinion on petitions,” the Chairman said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the petitions were filed by the Action Peoples Party (APP), Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and All Progressives Congress (APC).
This online news platform understands Mohammed polled 515,113 votes to defeat his closest rival the outgoing Governor of the state, Mohammed Abubakar of the (APC) who scored 500,325 votes.
The four parties are seeking the nullification of Mohammed’s declaration as the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) due to alleged noncompliance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
In its petition, the APP alleged that it fielded Alhaji Gumi Umaru and Sani Umaru, as Governorship and deputy Governorship candidates respectively, but discovered on election day that the two candidates were excluded in the ballot papers.
The party explained that it had initially submitted the name of one Kabiru Isiyaku as its governorship candidate, who later turned down the nomination and was substituted with Gumi, but said the electoral body unlawfully excluded him as its candidate.
On the other hand, the PDM, in its petition, said the electoral body excluded names of its candidates, the logo of the party in the ballot papers, including other election materials and all other documents used during the governorship election in the State.
APC and the outgoing State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, in their petition, refused to concede defeat, alleging widespread irregularities and expressing hopes that checks on disputed ballots of Bogoro, Bauchi and Tafawa Balewa Councils would overturn the results in their favour.
The outgoing State Governor complained about other aspects of the elections including how results in the three councils were tallied which culminated in the final scores in forms EC8E where Mohammed was declared the winner as incorrect.
Abubakar, therefore, wants the tribunal to declare him as the winner of the election or order for the conduct of a fresh election in the affected areas.