There was an altercation between the legal counsel to the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, and those of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the Presidential Election Petitions Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, 14 June.
It was gathered that the altercation was sequel to claims made by Peter Obi’s lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), that the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, was dodging the service of the subpoena issued by the court for him to produce certain documents.
The clash occurred after the LP and Obi’s lawyers had tendered some I-Rev reports and results from about seven states and their local government areas.
Uzoukwu told the court that they had wished to conclude tendering of documents but that they were constrained by the refusal of the INEC chairman to receive the subpoena, directing him to produce critical documents which they needed to submit as part of the trial.
He sought for an adjournment to enable him to resolve the issue with the lead counsel for INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, who, according to him, had promised to assist.
But Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), who led the INEC legal team for Wednesday’s proceedings in the Labour Party case, disputed the claim, saying that the petitioners are always seeking excuses to ask for adjournments.
Pinheiro said similar subpoenas were served on the INEC chairman by the PDP and it was received without any report of evasion of service.
He said it had become a signature tactic of making INEC the “whipping boy” over the Labour Party’s inability to follow through with their case, reminding that the petitioners had only called two out of the 50 witnesses they had proposed to call, with barely over a week left for them to close their case.
The disagreement led to a sharp retort by Obi’s lawyer who took offence with Pinheiro, saying his use of language was unfair to him.
The clash took the intervention of the Presiding Judge, Justice Haruna Tsammani, to calm the situation as he urged the lawyers to respect the court as they have always been hitting out at each other.
The court adjourned Obi’s case until Thursday 15 June, 2023 for continuation.