The legal tussle between the Labour Party, Peoples Democratic Party and the ruling All Progressives Congress over the outcome of the February 25 presidential election has taken a new dimension following a report that a combined team of 89 Senior Advocates of Nigeria have been engaged.
Sources within the camp of the warring political parties said that the array of legal luminaries, drawn from different chambers, are presently being furnished with materials that could be tendered as evidence in court.
The PUNCH reported that APC candidate, Bola Tinubu, was announced the winner of the keenly contested election by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The former Lagos governor polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, 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.
The drama took a twist last Friday when the two major opposition candidates were reported to have approached the court to seek permission for the inspection of election materials used during the poll.
A few days later, Tinubu’s camp also sought the court’s 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, JK Gadzama, has 18 other SANs.
They include Chris Uche, Paul Usoro, Tayo Jegede, Ken Mozia, Mike Ozekhome, Mahmood Magaji, Joe Abraham, Chukwuma 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.
Atiku’s Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, who spoke to our correspondent after the meeting, said, “Atiku raised a team of 19 Senior Advocates of Nigeria. You (Tinubu) claimed you won the election, yet you gather 50 lawyers; what are you gathering them for?”
“It is imperative that they work assiduously towards reclaiming the mandate, not necessarily because of him (Atiku) and the PDP, but to strengthen democracy and the electoral process and for generations unborn.”
With the latest move, the legal tussle now has 89 SANs, who are ready to outwit one another for their clients.
The National Secretary of the Labour Party, Umar Farouk, told The PUNCH that, “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,” he said,
As expected, the APC has expressed its readiness to defend its victory in court.
On Tuesday, the ruling party also announced the appointment of a crack team of experienced lawyers to defend the President-elect.
The legal team 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 luminaries were carefully selected based on their vast experience in election petition matters, constitutional law and litigation.
Their appointment was announced a few days after the Chief Spokesman for the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, said Tinubu and his camp would not be intimidated by the legal threat of the opposition.
El-Marzuq also disclosed that the team of SANs would be led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, a renowned lawyer, who has successfully handled various high-profile election matters and other landmark cases.
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 12 SANs do not reflect all the legal team who volunteered to defend the Tinubu.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, the PCC Director of Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga, said as of the time of filing this report, the total number of legal luminaries on their side had risen to 50.
Onanuga also identified popular legal luminary, Wole Olaonipekun, and the PCC counsel, Babatunde Ogala, as leading the other pack of the APC team.
He said, “The earlier list released by the APC partially just reflects the lawyers who will be involved in the case. It does not capture the full picture. I am aware, for instance, that Wole Olaonipekun is the leader of the team. And of course, the man who has been representing Asiwaju all these while in the court, Babatunde Ogala, is also a member of the team.
“I am aware that what we have in the public arena is just a partial list. There is no conflict concerning it. But there is an ongoing move to harmonise the list as one. Altogether, I think there are about 50 of them in all.”