From Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The Presidential candidates of the Hope Democratic Party in the last presidential election Chief Ambrose Albert Owuru is on warpath with a factional chairman of the party Chief Poland Awini Tapre over the bid by the later to withdraw the petition of the party challenging the return of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 Election.
Both Owuru and Tapre Tuesday turned the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal venue at the Court of Appeal as battle ground to express their different positions on the legal action against Buhari.
Tapre who claimed to be the National Chairman of the party set the tone for the internal crises of the party when he asked the tribunal to strike out the name of the party from the petition filed by Owuru, the party’s presidential candidate.
The factional chairman, at the resumed hearing of the petition against the President, announced that its presidential candidate was never authorized or mandated to file any petition against the February 23 presidential election.
Tapre, who brought a motion to the tribunal to disown the petition of the presidential candidate also prayed the court to erase the name of the party from the petition.
In the motion, argued by his counsel, Anthony Agbonlahan, the factional chairman pleaded with the Tribunal headed by Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba to remove the party’s name from the petition because the HDP has no intention of challenging the outcome of the presidential poll.
Owuru was said not to have consulted with the party leadership before using the name of the party as second petitioner against the election of Buhari.
However, the presidential candidate, Owuru, vehemently opposed the attempt to scuttle his petition with a counter affidavit of six paragraphs deposed to by Auwal Abdullahi, who claimed to be National Financial Secretary of the party.
He further averred that the bid to remove the party’s name from his petition is a “gang up and conspiracy from high level” against his petition and urged the Tribunal to ignore the purported factional chairman.
Owuru’s counsel, Chukwunonyerem Njokwu, in the counter affidavit described the factional chairman as an impostor who is not known to the party in any capacity whatsoever.
The counsel alleged that the purported factional chairman was a sponsored agent sent to the tribunal to frustrate the speedy hearing of the petition of his client against Buhari.
Njoku pleaded with the Tribunal to award a punitive cost of N100m against the factional chairman for acting as a busy body and meddlesome interloper in the petition adding that Tapre is not a member of the HDP but sent by his masters on a mission to destroy the petition.
Counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Yunus Ustaz Usman, for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Prince Lateef Fagbemi for the All Progressive Congress (APC), all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) supported the factional chairman’s bid to remove the HDP’s name from the petition.
Meanwhile, the Tribunal chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, has reserved ruling on whether the Tribunal will allow the name of the party to be removed or not from the petition.
In a ruling on another motion, the Tribunal permitted the HDP presidential candidate, Owuru, to amend clerical errors in his petition but refused the request to call additional witnesses to testify against Buhari.
Justice Garba ruled that the 21 days allowed by law to file petition and list witnesses and their statements on oath had lapsed, hence, additional witnesses could not be allowed.