The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja has ordered the merger of the cases filed by Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to challenge Bola Tinubu’s victory as the president-elect.
The five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani cited time constraint as the basis for its decision, in a ruling on Tuesday.
The court has 180 days from the time the three petitions were filed in mid-March to conclude the hearing and deliver its judgement.
In a ruling detailing a report of its pre-hearing session on Mr Obi’s petition, on Tuesday, the court ordered a consolidation of the three pending petitions.
The panel’s chair, Mr Tsammani, citing Paragraph 50 of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act 2022, said the interest of justice would be served by a merger of the petitions.
“The justice of these petitions demands that this petition be consolidated,” Mr Tsammani said.
After harmonising the suits, the court ordered Mr Obi and his party to prove their case within three weeks instead of the six weeks they requested for during the pre-hearing sessions.
The court gave Mr Obi 30 May for the commencement of hearing of his substantive petition and he is expected to conclude his case on 23 June.
The court added that it would conduct proceedings on a day-to-day basis from Mondays to Saturdays.
For the respondents in the petition – INEC, APC, Mr Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, the vice-president-elect – they have five days each to present their defence.
On allotment of time, the petitioners have 30 minutes each to lead or cross-examine their or adverse parties’ star witnesses. The other witnesses have 20 minutes each to testify and the legal team of the adverse parties will have five minutes each for re-examining them.
Mr Obi had through his lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), filed his petition challenging Tinubu’s victory on 20 March – 20 days after Mr Tinubu was declared winner of the polls by INEC.
At the time of filing this report, the court had yet to give its report on Atiku and APM’s pre-hearing sessions of their petitions.
But all petitioners and respondents must abide by the court’s decision consolidating the petitions.