Lawyers representing the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, engaged in a heated confrontation with lawyers from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the Presidential Election Petitions Court in Abuja on Wednesday. The altercation arose from claims made by Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), the lead counsel for Peter Obi, stating that the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, was avoiding the service of a subpoena issued by the court to produce specific documents.
The clash occurred after the Labour Party and Obi’s legal team had presented I-Rev reports and results from approximately seven states and their respective local government areas. Uzoukwu informed the court that they intended to conclude the submission of documents but were hindered by the INEC chairman’s refusal to accept the subpoena, which directed him to produce crucial documents required for the trial. Uzoukwu requested an adjournment to resolve the matter with Abubakar Mahmoud, the lead counsel for INEC, who had reportedly promised assistance.
However, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), who led the INEC legal team during the proceedings of the Labour Party case, disputed the claim, stating that the petitioners were constantly seeking excuses to request adjournments. Pinheiro mentioned that similar subpoenas had been served to the INEC chairman by the PDP, and they were received without any report of evasion of service. He criticized the Labour Party for consistently making INEC the scapegoat for their inability to proceed with their case, noting that out of the 50 witnesses they proposed to call, they had only called two with just over a week left to close their case.
The disagreement escalated, with Obi’s lawyer expressing offense at Pinheiro’s choice of words and deeming them unfair. The Presiding Judge, Justice Haruna Tsammani, intervened to defuse the situation and urged the lawyers to show respect for the court, as they had a history of exchanging heated remarks. The court adjourned Obi’s case until Thursday, June 15, 2023, for further proceedings.