The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Wednesday granted permission to the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to serve their petition challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019 election, on President Muhammadu Buhari through substituted means.
This came after the petitioners complained in an ex parte application that they had been unable to serve their petition on Buhari personally, one week after filing the petition before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja.
The ex parte application was filed before the Court of Appeal on March 25, 2019, about one week after the petitioners lodged their case at the tribunal in Abuja on March 18, 2019 to challenge Buhari’s victory in the presidential election.
In the ex parte application sighted by The PUNCH after it was heard and granted on Wednesday, the petitioners stated that they had served copies of their petition and the accompanying court processes on both the Independent National Electoral Commission and the All Progressives Congress – the first and the third respondents to the petition- respectively.
But they said “it is impracticable and impossible” to serve the petition on Buhari personally, “given the impregnable security and protocol” at the Presidential Villa, also known as Aso Rock, where he resides.
Praying for an order permitting them to serve Buhari through the national secretariat of his party, the APC, the petitioners stated in their application that an attempt by a bailiff of the Court of Appeal to personally serve Buhari with the petition was abortive.
The affidavit which they had filed in support of the ex parte application read in part, “The petitioners/applicants, upon filing the petition, have served the 1st and 3rd respondents (INEC and APC) with the petition, but it is impracticable and impossible to serve the 2nd respondent (Buhari) personally with the petition.
“The 2nd respondent is currently the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and lives in and carries out his duties from the Presidential Villa, Abuja, and personal service of any process on him is impracticable and impossible given the impregnable security and protocol attaining his office as the Head of State.
“An attempt by the court bailiff to serve the petition and other processes personally on the 2nd respondent was abortive because of security issues and hurdles in the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.”
They noted that Buhari “is a member of and was sponsored as candidate for the election by 3rd respondent, whose office (National Secretariat) is at No. 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja.”
They therefore contended that service of the petition on him “can only be effectively and conveniently made” on the President “by delivering same to the 3rd respondent through any of its senior officers or officials at its office at the APC National Secretariat.”
The petitioners’ counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), supported by others including Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Mr. Gordy Uche (SAN), moved the application before a three-man bench of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.
The three-man bench which sat in a “pre-hearing session” of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, granted the request contained in the petitioners’ application shortly after the application was moved by the petitioners’ lawyers on Wednesday.