Retinue of senior advocates as Tinubu, Atiku, Obi begin legal battle to claim presidency
Nigeria’s president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is about to face a major legal challenge to his mandate, as the two leading contenders to the presidency, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) have lined up formidable legal teams.
Tinubu has already responded by announcing his own legal team, and it is already looking like a cortège of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
Reports said there is a combined team of 89 Senior Advocates of Nigeria ready to bury their heads in the legal tussles.
Sources within the camp of the warring political parties said that the array of legal luminaries, drawn from different chambers, is presently being furnished with materials that could be tendered as evidence in court.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Tinubu, as the winner of the keenly contested election which took place across Nigeria on the 25 of February, 2023.
Tinubu was announced to have polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat the Atiku Abubakar, and the LP flag-bearer, who got 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes, respectively.
But Atiku and Obi rejected the results announced by INEC, with each claiming at separate press conferences that the election was fraught with violence and massive rigging.
Both have approached the court to seek permission for the inspection of election materials used during the poll.
Few days later, Tinubu’s camp also sought the court permission to have access to examine the said electoral materials for the alleged illegality by the opposition.
On Wednesday, Atiku’s camp announced that it had assembled 19 SANs to challenge the results of the poll.
While briefing his legal team on Wednesday at his campaign office in Abuja, the former vice president tasked them to “establish the claim of illegality in the February 25 presidential election and reclaim the mandate of the Nigerian people.”
He told the team that apart from reclaiming the mandate from those who undertook the electoral heist that was not a reflection of the will of Nigerians, the legal team should also use the opportunity of the trial to strengthen constitutional democracy in the country.
The team, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, J. K. Gadzama, has 18 other SANs, including Chris Uche, Paul Usoro, Tayo Jegede, Ken Mozia, Mike Ozekhome, Mahmood Magaji, Joe Abraham, Chukwuma Machukwu Umeh, Garba Tetengi and Emeka Etiaba.
Others are Chief Goddy Uche, Prof. Maxwell Gidado; the National Legal Adviser of the PDP, A. Ajibade, Mr. O. Atoyebi, Mrs. Nella Rabana, Paul Ogbole, Nuremi Jimoh, and Abdul Ibrahim.
Meanwhile, the National Secretary of Labour Party, Umar Farouk, was quotedby PUNCH to have said “We have more than 20 SANs that are willing to participate and offer their services for the renewal and emergence of a new Nigeria. As I am talking to you, our lawyers are working on it.
“But this is not something we can discuss on the pages of a newspaper. All I can tell you is that we have started ‘trekking’ to the court.”
On Tuesday, Tinubu’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced the appointment of its legal team which consisted of 12 SANs, including the national legal adviser of the party, Ahmad El-Marzuq.
In a statement titled “APC Appoints Presidential Election Petition Legal Team,” El-Marzuq said the legal team was selected based on experience in election petition matters, constitutional law and litigation.
El-Marzuq also disclosed that the team of SANs would be led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi.
Others are Sam Ologunorisa, Murtala Abdulrasheed, Rotimi Ogunesom Olabisi Soyebo, Gboyega Oyebowale, Pius Akubo, Aliyu Saiki, Oluseye Opasanya, Tajudeen Oladoja, Kazeem Adeniyi and Suraju Saida.
But the APC Presidential Campaign Council disclosed that there are more SANs lurking in the background.
PCC’s director of media and publicity, Bayo Onanuga, said there could be up to 50 lawyers in total, and he specifically mentioned Wole Olaonipekun, and PCC’s counsel, Babatunde Ogala, as possible leaders of another pack of APC legal team.
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