By Johnson Eyiangho, Abuja
The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and his party will on Thursday, June 22 close their case in their joint petition challenging the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
The petitioners, according to a pre-hearing report were supposed to close their case yesterday but their lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) brought to the notice of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that they lost two days out of the days allotted to them and asked that the two days be returned.
The petitioners, who told the court during the pre-hearing session that they would call 100 witnesses, have only presented 25 witnesses so far.
Speaking with newsmen, Counsel to the petitioners said, they might call additional five witnesses to have a round figure of 30 witnesses.
Uche said some of the documents to be tendered in the remaining two days would take the place of the remaining 70 witnesses.
“We are closing our case on Thursday, it was supposed to end today (Tuesday) but because we lost two days, one of which was the June 12 public holiday, the court graciously extended our time by two days”, Uche told newsmen after the proceedings.
Earlier in the proceedings, the petitioners lamented the difficulties encountered in getting Certified True Copies (CTC) of documents out of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of their joint petition challenging Tinubu’s election.
At the resumed hearing of the petition, Counsel to Atiku and his party told the court that, getting materials from INEC is like getting weapons from an opponent.
He told the Court that getting documents from INEC was very difficult, but commended the legal team of the electoral body, headed by Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) for their assistance in getting some of the documents from INEC.
Uche applied for a stand-down in the proceedings to enable the petitioners mark the deluge of documents made available to them Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, counsel to INEC, Kemi Pinhero (SAN) told the court in his submissions that INEC officials brought the documents from all over the country and that the petitioners are yet to pay for the certification of the documents.
He said it was incumbent on the petitioners to prepare a schedule of documents they wish to tender.
The court rose for about ten minutes to enable parties in the petition put heads together and find a way forward with the documents.
When parties reconvened, Uche reported to the court that they have agreed that the petitioners go back with the documents, prepare a schedule of documents and mark them for tendering on Wednesday.
The five-member panel of Justices of the court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani adjourned till Wednesday, June 21 for the continuation of hearing in the petition.
Tribunal Asks Labour Party to Show Proof on REC Summons
The Presidential Elections Petition Court, yesterday, asked the Labour Party to present proof that it served the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) across the country summons to provide electoral documents.
This is the submission made by the court as the Labour Party insisted that the electoral body was frustrating its case by deliberately evading summons.
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi was present, alongside some members of the party to witness the proceedings yesterday. The Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party are challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Tribunal.
On the Labour Party’s petition, the justices asked the party to present proof that it served INEC RECs in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory summons to provide electoral documents following persistent calls that the electoral body was deliberately frustrating its case.
The five-member panel said it was clear that the Labour Party never issued subpoenas on the resident electoral commissioners in the states where it is seeking documents.
Counsel for Labour Party, Livy Uzoukwu had informed the court that INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had given his commitment that all electoral documents will be made available on demand, from the RECs.
However, the court stated that the party did not explore Section 74 of the Electoral Act which stated that they must, on demand, provide documents within 14 days to the said party or pay a fine of N2m or imprisonment, or both, for defaulters.
The court said it was clear that the party didn’t lodge a complaint on the delay of documents, and has also failed to apply the penalty clause as stipulated in section 74.
The court added that whatever happened between the Labour Party and INEC was without the involvement of the court.
Meanwhile, under cross-examination for the party, a witness, Clarissa Ogar, who is a staff of amazon, admitted to be in court in her own capacity.
She said there was no technical glitch on the INEC server during the presidential election.
She, however, admitted that glitches can occur at any time while using the amazon software and application.
The court stood down its proceedings and reconvened at 2pm.
At the resumed hearing, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar and his party told the court that they will close their case challenging the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election on Thursday.
According to a pre-hearing report, the petitioners, were supposed to close their case on Tuesday but their lead counsel, Chris Uche brought to the notice of the court that they lost two days out of the days allotted to them and asked that the days be returned to them.
The petitioners have so far called 25 witnesses out of the 100 witnesses they proposed.
He said they might call additional five witnesses to have a round figure of 30 witnesses called.
The counsel for the PDP said that some of the documents to be tendered in the remaining two days would take the place of the remaining 70 witnesses.
Like the counsels for the Labour Party, he also lamented the difficulties encountered in getting certified true copies of documents out of INEC to aid them in challenging Tinubu’s election.
He, however, commended the legal team of the electoral body, for their assistance in getting some of the documents.
The five member panel of justices, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani adjourned till Wednesday, June 21 for continuation of hearing in the petitions.
PDP Insists on Victory in 2023 Presidential Election
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday insisted that without prejudice to ongoing case at the Presidential Election Petition Court, its Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, won the 2023 Presidential Election.
The PDP National Organising Secretary (NOS), Umar Bature, stated this in his remarks at the party’s “Select Committee meeting” at the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja.
“This party believes that Atiku Abubakar won the election but we are in court and without prejudice to what the court will decide, we will keep it aside,” Bature said.
He also expressed strong belief that the PDP will win ongoing governorship cases in tribunals in Kaduna, Nasarawa, Ogun and Sokoto states.
“We believe strongly that the ongoing tribunal cases in Kaduna, Nasarawa, Ogun and Sokoto States will be in our favour.
“Let me give a preview of our performance in the last election. In the State House of Assemblies, we have 342 members, we have 116 members in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, we have 36 members and we have 13 Governors.”
The Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Amb. Umar Damagun, in his address of welcome earlier, said the meeting was to review the outcome of the 2023 general elections and share ideas on how to strengthen the party to face challenges ahead.
“We have had series of meetings with the members of the National Ex officio, state chairmen, select BoT and members of the National Assembly. This is a continuation of that meeting and it was borne out of what has happened during those meetings and we said there was need for us to call this one.
“This meeting is going to be an interactive session and I want us to be conscious of the fact that while making your contributions we should be mindful of the fact that we are one family.
“Anybody that is in this hall today is here by the virtue of the fact that he/she meant well for this party. I want to enjoin us to contribute in a manner that will not hurt the sensibilities of others. We are one family and so we shall remain,” Damagun said.
In his contribution, Sen. Adolphus Wabara, the PDP Acting Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT), expressed confidence that the party will recover its “stolen mandate.”
“Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect that we still have this number in our party. I want to congratulate all of us for this having faith in this party. This is what will make us strong to clinch our stolen victory. We should not despair. We are in politics!
“As our acting National Chairman mentioned, they stole our mandate. We hope the tribunal and the courts will give us back our stolen mandate. Much as some of us may disagree with the synopsis, because we are still in court, we should mind what we are going to say today so it doesn’t work against us in the court.
“Let us watch how we attack ourselves. There will be time for that. The BOT waits to take some advisory decisions but then this is not the time,” Wabara said.
The PDP had invited 183 of its members, including past governors, members of the National Assembly and other members for the select Committe meeting.
However, conspicuously absent at the meeting are former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and his group of G-5 colleagues, among other invitees.
Obi Asking for Non-existent Documents – INEC
Some documents requested by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) at the 2023 election, Mr Peter Obi to be presented as exhibits at the Presidential Election Tribunal are non-existent.
INEC made the declaration before the court sitting in Abuja yesterday.
Obi and the Labour Party (LP) are challenging the Feb. 25 election of President Bola Tinubu before the court in a petition marked CA/PEPC/03/2023.
Respondents in the petition are INEC, President Tinubu, Vice-President Kashim Shettima and their All Progressives Congress (APC).
Giving evidence before the court, Mr Lawrence Bayode, Deputy Director, ICT at INEC told the court that out of the five documents Obi asked for; two were non-existent, while one was work in progress.
One of Obi’s witnesses, Ms Loretta Ogah, an ICT cloud engineer, said she contested election into the House of Representatives on the platform of Labour Party in Cross River, but lost the election.
Ogah was cross-examined by Mr Wole Olanipakun (SAN), counsel for Tinubu and Shettima.
She told the court that she sued INEC after her loss because the electoral umpire did not list her name on its portal as a result of network failure.
Also cross-examined by Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), counsel for APC, Ogah told the court that glitches did not occur on INEC portal on Feb. 25.
She said she did not know INEC’s password protocol as she was not INEC’s employee.
The court, presided over by Justice Haruna Tsammani, adjourned further hearing to Wednesday. (NAN)
CJN Brushes aside Criticisms, Scores Judiciary Very High
By Ben Atonko, Abuja
Despite the outcry against the conduct and performance of the judiciary, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola on Monday, scored the third arm of government very high, stressing that “the judiciary, as it is today, is more deserving of public trust and confidence than ever before.
Ariwoola said this at the opening of the 2023/2024 new legal year and the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on 58 lawyers.
The judiciary has come under scrutiny in the recent past especially after judiciary pronouncements on political matters.
Only last week, the Court of Appeal sacked the governor of Kano State, Abba Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP)) and declared the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Nasiru Gawuna as the winner of the March poll.
But a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment later emerged affirming Yusuf’s victory in the exercise, contrary to what was said in court. The court defended itself, saying it was a clerical error.
The Kano State Government described the clerical error in the CTC as “outrageously scandalous.”
Last month, a Supreme Court Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, at his valedictory session addressed what he observed as rots in the judiciary that have continued to affect the justice delivery system in the country.
Muhammad who was said to have pulled out from the seven-man panel that dismissed all the appeals that sought to remove President Bola Tinubu from office, accused the CJN of abusing the powers of his office.
According to him, there was abuse of powers in the judiciary and “continued denial of the existence of this threatening anomaly weakens effective judicial oversight in the country”.
He maintained that the decision not to fill the vacancies in the Supreme Court is deliberate — all for “the absolute powers vested in the office of the CJN and the responsible exercise of same”.
Yet Justice Ariwoola was upbeat with his brother justices as he counted their successes.
He said the Supreme Court handled 1,271 cases including motions and appeals in the 2022/2023 Legal Year.
“Out of these, we heard 388 political appeals, 215 criminal appeals, and 464 civil appeals.
“Similarly, the court considered a total number of 49 criminal motions, 153 civil motions, and two political motions.
“Between Sept. 30, 2022 and July 11, 2023, the supreme court delivered a total number of 251 judgments. Out of these, 125 were political appeals, 81 were civil appeals and 45 were criminal appeals.
“Within the period under review, precisely 10 months duration, a total number of 91 rulings were delivered by the honourable court.
”To a very large extent, I will confidently say that this score-card is impressive, fascinating and appreciable in view of the unpleasant events that dotted the legal year, especially the attenuating number of justices on the supreme court bench, which has to do with some challenges that could not easily be surmounted by one arm of government alone.
“I attribute the tremendous successes recorded in the course of the last legal year by the honourable court to the doggedness exhibited by my industrious and team-spirited brother Justices and the general staff,” he said.
Ariwoola urged the new SANs not to take for granted the honour newly conferred on them, pointing out that they were successful out of 114 applicants.
“While 57 of the new SANs are from the advocate, only one emerged successful from the academics.
“As Senior Advocates of Nigeria, you now carry heavy burden on your shoulders from the moment you leave this courtroom, everything in you and about you will now be freely scrutinized and dissected by everyone that comes in contact with you.
“There is nothing like private life for you henceforth, as whatever you hitherto regarded as private life will now be treated as public life by members of the public; and there is nothing you can do about it.
“So, watch your utterances, watch your actions and watch the kind of company you keep, because you have already assumed the role of ministers of the court, as you are now expected to assist the court to attain justice, equity and fairness in all ramifications.”
The CJN called for respect of the rule of law and the holistic independence of the judiciary.
“The Judiciary, as it is today, is more deserving of public trust and confidence than ever before.
“If the faith of the people is to be maintained in the Judiciary, then judges must be above board, deliver justice without fear or favour.
“So, I admonish all of us to always be impartial in all our judgments,” he said.
He assured Nigerians that he would do everything possible to ensure that the apex court attains its full complement of 21 justices before he retires next year.
“Currently, there are just 10 justices on the bench of the apex court; the lowest in the history of the apex court.
“As soon as I assumed office on June 27, 2022, I immediately got down to work on this urgent and immediate need in particular.
“Though we have not gotten them on board yet, I can convincingly assure the litigant public that within a very short while, the Supreme Court will, for the very first time in its history, get the constitutionally-prescribed full complement of 21 Justices.
“That is one of the legacies I have been working assiduously to leave behind as it now seems that the court has been somewhat ‘jinxed’ from meeting its constitutional requirement since that piece of legislation was enacted several years ago.”
He admonished Nigerians on the imperative of being less litigious and be more disposed to alternative dispute resolutions to free the courts from some unnecessary cases which are over-stretching both human and material resources.
FEC Approves N27.50trn for 2024 Appropriation Bill
By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the 2024 appropriation bill of N27.50 trillion for the 2024 budget with a N1.5 trillion increase from the earlier estimated bill.
The government had proposed N26.2 trillion earlier but had reviewed the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) that was approved by the National Assembly.
Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Sen.Atiku Bagudu, announced this on Monday at the end of the FEC meeting chaired by President Bola Tinubu in Abuja.
Similarly, House of Representatives on Monday, confirmed that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would present his 2024 Appropriation bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who is Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had said that the 2024 Appropriation bill would be presented to the National Assembly in the next few days.
Gbajabiamila, who said that FEC would tidy up work on the budget, however cautioned Committees Chairmen and Deputies in the House against imminent Infighting, saying that this has been the characteristic of committee heads since democratic government returned in 1999.
He said that the new proposal was legitimate because the appropriation was dependent on the final process that could be changed due to many variables including new priorities and MDAs presentations.
The former Speaker also advised his successor, Tajudeen Abbas, to nip in the bud this monster, to enable the House deliver on its good governance agenda for the people.
Bagudu said that MTEF that was approved by the National Assembly put the exchange rate at N700 per dollar and an oil price benchmark of 73.96 dollars.
He added that FEC revised the MTEF to use an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar and oil price benchmark of N77.96 in order to further fund the eight priority areas of the administration.
Bagudu said that the president would give more breakdown of the budget during its presentation to the National Assembly, stressing that the presentation date would be decided by the National Assembly.
The minister said that the 2024 forecast revenue would now be N18.32 trillion higher than the 2023 budget and the supplementary budgets provisions.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Chief Wale Edun, said that the Federal Government has secured funds from the African Development Bank for budget support.
He said that the $1billion funds would aid effective implementation of the government reform policies as well as ensure transparency and accountability in the various tax reforms.
Edun added that it would be used in areas such as power and ensuring the efficient utilisation of tax revenues, adding that it was not for project.
Speaking in Abuja at a retreat organized for House of Representatives Committees Chairmen and their Deputies, with the theme, “Improving Legislative Performance through Effective Committee Management”, Gbajabiamila said that infighting between Chairmen and their Deputies, has been the greatest challenge of the House of Representatives.
“I experienced it when I was Speaker, Leader of the House, Minority Leader and Minority Whip”, he averred, expressing hope that Speaker Abbas, would work closely with the committee chairmen and their Deputies to solve this problem in 10th House of Representatives because, “as it it is said, when elephant and elephant are fighting the grass will suffer and in this case, the grass is the Nigerian people.
“We were guilty of this in 9th Assembly but I hope that the 10rh Assembly will correct it. Do your committee works thoroughly. Research thoroughly before going for your committee work”, he admonished his colleagues.
Declaring open the one day retreat, the Speaker, Abbas, said that committees would have only two weeks to conclude considerations of the budget for quick passage by the House.
He said it was in view of the budget presentation that the retreat was put together for the chairmen and deputies, to equip them for the task ahead.
The Speaker said that the House will convene a town hall meeting on 2024 budget to get citizens inputs before passage, which is first time this would be happening in the history of the House.
“In line with our mantra as the “Peoples House”, the 10th House of Representatives is committed to greater and more transparent engagement with the public. This is necessary for reducing suspicion, building trust and generating support for the work of the National Assembly.
“As we expect to receive the 2024 Appropriation bill in a few days, I wish to state that the House will convene a Budget Townhall Meeting to enable citizens to make inputs into the 2024 Appropriation.
“It is the first time such an engagement is planned at the national level. I invite our partners to work with us in preparing for a vigorous and all-inclusive budget process.
“To ensure speedy passage of the 2024 budget, I charge all Committees to double their efforts and finalise all considerations in two weeks.
“However, this does not imply haphazard and superficial consideration of the Budget. Rather, it is a challenge to you to deploy all resources and make the needed sacrifices to ensure we pass the Budget in good time for the good of all Nigerians”, he said.
The Speaker said the theme of the retreat was deliberately chosen “to provide a comprehensive understanding of the tasks ahead, especially for many of us taking up these legislative responsibilities for the first time.
“The legislature is central to our democracy, and a strong House is integral to ensuring that governance is conducted in an open, accountable, and representative manner.6.
“As chairmen and deputy chairmen of various committees, we must ensure that the House delivers on its Legislative Agenda. All Committees should study the relevant sections of the Agenda and incorporate them into their work plans.”
Deputy Speaker, Hon Benjamin Kalu, admonishing his colleagues, asked deputy chairmen to avoid rubbing shoulders with their chairmen, and that the chairmen must, equally, not treat others as their slaves, as they were only first among equals.
He urged them to be transparent in all their affairs and not take those that they oversight for granted.
Zenith Bank Signs MOU with French Govt, to Establish Presence in France
By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
Zenith Bank Plc has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the French Government to establish a subsidiary of the bank in France.
The MoU, which was signed by the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia and the French Minister for Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, Mr.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia said it was his pleasure to the Minister to Nigeria and Zenith Bank.
“I am indeed very delighted about the signing of this MoU with France. For me, it is an honour to do this on behalf of the bank, and we look forward to securing the licence and starting operations in early 2024,” he said.
He thanked the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann and her colleagues at the French Embassy in Nigeria for their efforts towards improving French-Nigerian business relations.
Also speaking during the ceremony, the French Minister for Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, Mr. Olivier Becht, said: “I want to thank you very much for your decision to open a branch of Zenith Bank in Paris. We are thrilled to welcome in France Zenith Bank’s first office inside the European Union.”
“For us, that’s a very good signal, and it is undoubtedly a demonstration of mutual confidence. No doubt also that your vision on international finance guided you to decide to open this branch and this decision in many respects can also be regarded as a milestone in French-Nigerian economic relations and an illustration of our friendship”.
He noted that the government of President Macron had adopted a pro-business agenda in order to make France more attractive by undertaking several reforms in labour law, simplifying a lot of procedures and cutting business taxes, corporate taxes and production taxes by more than 25 billion Euros, adding that, we hope that the opening of the branch of Zenith Bank in France will also be an occasion to boost the
French-Nigerian business in order to have more French companies investing in Nigeria and also to have more Nigerian companies investing in France.
Zenith Bank has continued to distinguish itself in the Nigerian financial services industry through superior service offerings, unique customer experience and sound financial indices.
The bank remains a clear leader in the digital space, with several firsts in deploying innovative products and solutions and an assortment of alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed, and safety of transactions. Zenith Bank also has subsidiaries in Ghana, Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited; Sierra Leone, Zenith Bank (Sierra Leone) Limited; The Gambia, Zenith Bank (Gambia) Limited.
The Bank also has a Representative Office in The People’s Republic of China.
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