In a high-stakes legal battle before the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Trial Tribunal, the final written addresses of the parties were adopted on Thursday, marking the conclusion of arguments in the case. The Tribunal has now reserved its judgment, leaving the parties and the public in anticipation.
The case, between Ibrahim Baba Hassan of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the petitioner and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Musa Agah Avia of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Adam Alkali of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), and Daniel Asama Agoh of the Labour Party (LP) as the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents, was the second on the cause list and took precedence in proceedings.
Representing the first respondent (INEC), P. A Okereke Esq presented the final written address along with the response to the petitioner’s final written address, dated and filed on 26th July 2023.
P. A Akubo (SAN), counsel for the second respondent (Musa Agah Avia), adopted two processes – the substantive final written address dated 15th July 2023 and the response to the petitioner’s final written address dated 24th July 2023.
The crux of the petitioner’s case lies in challenging the second respondent’s qualification to contest the House of Representatives Election for Bassa/Jos North Federal Constituency on the grounds of alleged invalid nomination. Additionally, they claim that the third respondent (PDP) lacks a valid structure due to non-compliance with a court order. However, the second respondent’s counsel vehemently contended that these grounds were no longer valid, citing Exhibit 2R1, 2R2, 2R6, and 2R8, which included reports and judgments confirming the 3rd respondent’s compliance and legitimacy.
Furthermore, the issue of the 2nd respondent’s nomination was asserted to be within the domain of the 3rd respondent (PDP), making the petitioner’s challenge irrelevant, according to the second respondent’s counsel.
Counsel for the third respondent, J. M Okafor Esq, brought to the Tribunal’s attention that the petitioner’s allegations pertain to pre-election matters rather than constitutional qualifications or disqualifications of candidates. As such, he urged the Tribunal to dismiss the petition entirely with substantial costs.
Yakubu Ruba SAN, representing the fourth and fifth respondents, argued that the other respondents’ focus was misdirected, urging the Tribunal to disregard their attacks on co-respondents and instead focus on the issues raised by the petitioners.
N. D Gwaison Esq, on behalf of the sixth and seventh respondents, refuted the claim that respondents should not attack each other, asserting that parties have a duty to address the court on the facts and evidence presented.
Finally, J. A Adoku, the counsel for the petitioners, adopted their final written address and pointed out that the case falls under the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, citing relevant precedents. He emphasized that the petition had merit and all requested reliefs should be granted.
With the adoption of all written addresses and responses, the Tribunal concluded the proceedings and announced that the date for judgment would be communicated to the parties involved. As the country awaits the tribunal’s decision, the outcome of this closely watched case will have significant implications for the political landscape.