The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday lost its bid to have the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal dismiss the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and its presidential candidate in February 23, 2019, Pastor Haminchi Habu.
Habu and the PDM are by their petition challenging the victory of Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) at the poll.
INEC and Buhari had through, their respective lawyers, filed separate motions seeking the dismissal of the petition on the grounds that the petitioners failed to comply with the provisions of paragraph 18(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act.
The commission contended that the petitioners had violated the said provisions of the Electoral Act by failing to apply for the pre-hearing notice within seven days after the close of pleadings marked by the filing of their final replies to the respondents’ replies to the petition.
But dismissing the applications in separate rulings on Thursday, the Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal unanimously, held that the petitioners did file their application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice within the time stipulated by law.
Justice Garba, who read the lead ruling, held that the pleadings were closed on April 20, 2019 when the petitioners filed their reply to the last-received reply of the 2nd respondent (Buhari) to the petition.
He held that therefore, the application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice filed by the petitioners on April 30, was within the seven days period stipulated by law and deemed to be proper.
He dismissed the applications by INEC and Buhari for lacking in merit.
The tribunal, however, also, in another ruling dismissed an application by the petitioners seeking that judgment be delivered in their favour on the grounds of alleged tardiness of the respondents – INEC, Buhari, and APC.