A three-man panel of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal (GEPT) in Kaduna state was on Thursday inaugurated and began sitting just as the Chairman, Justice Victor Oviawe, promised that the tribunal will uphold the provisions of the constitution.
The tribunal will handle the petitions filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its gubernatorial candidate, Hon. Mohammed Isa Ashiru, against the All Progressives Congress (APC), its candidate, Governor Uba Sani and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Speaking further, Justice Oviawe averred that the Tribunal will be just, fair and do the right thing in the interest of the public, noting that five petitions are before the court.
The tribunal Chairman sought the cooperations of the Bar to enable the court deliver it’s mandate timely in line with the provision of the Electoral Act.
Other members of the panel are Justice D.A Damulak and Justice N. Nonye.
Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Kaduna branch, Tajudeen Muhammed, in his response, assured the panel of the NBA’s support, adding that the Bar will give utmost cooperation to the Bench throughout the process of the case.
The APC and Uba Sani team of senior lawyers was led by the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Bayo Ojo (SAN), who told reporters in an interview shortly after the court session that they are at the court for the inaugural sitting.
Ojo said, “today, we are here for the inaugural sitting of the tribunal as you heard the Chairman said and my response to that: We have pledged our cooperation to ensure that, the sittings go very well, while we are going to defend our client to the best of our ability”.
The PDP team of senior lawyers was represented by Prof. Francis Kwede, the Dean, faculty of law, University of Jos on behalf of the lead Counsel, Samuel Atung (SAN).
He told journalists that he can assure that there would be justice.
“From what transpired, it is an inaugural sitting of the tribunal. I assure you that there will be justice, as members of the Bar we want to assure tribunal that justice will be served in this matter. In this matter I have confidence that at the end members of the public will see that justice has been done, at the end of the day justice will be done,” he said.
The PDP had earlier challenged the victory of the Kaduna state Governor, Malam Uba Sani of the APC, with the claims that the governorship election in the state was manipulated in favour of the incumbent Governor.
Chairman of PDP in Kaduna state, Hassan Hyet said, “This inaugural sitting is a long awaited day. We are happy that the Chairman of the Tribunal has promised to be fair and do justice to whoever justice is due. Our prayer is that, at the end of the day, the Tribunal will do justice to all the parties and the people of Kaduna state”.
But the ruling APC had discarded the PDP claims, saying that the election that ushered in Sen. Uba Sani was free, fair and credible.
INEC had also insisted in its reply to the petition marked KPT/KD/GOV/4/2023 and filed on 6 May 2023, that incumbent governor and candidate of the ruling APC, Uba Sani, won the election fair and square and was lawfully returned as the winner.
INEC pointed to the Tribunal to note a major constitutional error in the petition brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the outcome of the March 18th poll.
INEC’s reply was contained both in its preliminary objection to the petition brought by PDP and its candidate, Mohammed Ashiru, and point-by-point response to all the allegations raised by the petitioners, against the conduct of the poll and its final outcome.
The leader of the team of SANs, Abdullahi Aliyu (SAN), listed 29 documents which the Commission would rely on, if the petition isn’t dismissed at the preliminary stage and gets to full trial.
In its preliminary objection highlighting the 47-page reply, INEC claimed that the constitutional error being signalled, has rendered the judicial challenge mounted by the petitioners, incompetent, and only fit, for dismissal.
“Results of polling units being disputed by the petitioners, were also analysed in the reply of the electoral body, which also indicated that it would be calling witnesses from its election operations and ICT department, to prove the integrity of the poll and the votes scored by each of the participating candidates,” INEC stated in its preliminary objection.