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Supreme Court grills Atiku’s lawyers over CSU documents


Supreme Court grills Atiku’s lawyers over CSU documents

The Nation Newspaper

The legal team of Atiku Abubakar had a tough time yesterday trying to convince the Supreme Court as to why he should be allowed to tender new evidence.
It was during the hearing of the appeal by Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the affirmation of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory in the February 25 poll.

The Justices reserved judgment in the appeal, as well as the one by Peter Obi and Labour Party (LP).

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) after its counsel, who was scolded for time-wasting, withdrew it.

Atiku and Obi are challenging the September 6 judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC).

Counsel for Atiku and the PDP, Chris Uche (SAN), said the motion was for leave to present fresh evidence based on a deposition on oath from the Registrar of the Chicago State University (CSU), United States.

Uche said: “It is our contention that the issue involved is a weighty and constitutional one.”

He added that the Supreme Court, as the custodian of the Constitution, should admit the documents in view of the exceptional circumstance that have arisen.

Uche argued that the only opposition raised by the respondents against the motion was technical.

He said the respondents’ objection was that the fresh documents were not properly pleaded and that they were being introduced late into the proceedings.

“We argue that this matter is akin to a jurisdictional issue; that the court, as a policy court, should have a look at these documents.

“It should sidestep technicalities and do substantial justice in this matter,” Uche said.

At that point, Justice John Okoro, who heads the court’s seven-member panel, asked Uche whether the court should be guided by the Constitution and the Electoral Act or that it should act arbitrarily.

Uche said: “We have argued that this court is allowed under the Constitution and the Electoral Act and that it can still allow these documents.”

Another member of the panel, Justice Emmanuel Agim, sought to know from Uche the nature of the documents.

Uche responded by saying: “It is a deposition of a witness made pursuant to a court order.”

Justice Agim noted that the deposition, which is that of the Registrar of the CSU, Caleb Westberg, seemed like a product of a question-and-answer session.

He observed that the proceeding leading to the creation of the document was conducted in the chamber of Atiku’s lawyer in the United States.

Uche said the proceeding took place in Atiku’s lawyer’s office in compliance with the order of a US court, to which Justice Agim noted that the said order did not specify when it must take place.

The justice added that the deposition, which is a testimony by the CSU’s Registrar under oath, cannot qualify as a court document because it was not a product of a court proceeding.

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