Crime

Backdoor petition filing:400 lawyers raise alarm over threats to whistleblower’s life

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Backdoor petition filing:400 lawyers raise alarm over threats to whistleblower’s life

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Over 400 lawyers, on Friday, raised the alarm over persistent threats to the life of one of their colleagues, Barr. Yetunde Olubunmi Shaibu, Convener of the United Front for Democracy (UFD), by certain interests loyal to the Social Democratic Party and its Governorship candidate.

The lawyers, from across the six geo-political zones of the county, under the aegis of the Commitee for the Defence of Democracy, said this followed UFD’s whistleblowing on an alleged clandestine move by the Social Democratic Party and its Governorship candidate to file their petition against the outcome of the November 11 election through the backdoor and backdate same to circumvent the provisions of the Electoral Act, having failed to do so within the 21-day window prescribed by law.

The lawyers, who spoke at an emergency press conference in Abuja, attended by 20 representatives of the organisation representing their zones, said the claim by the Secretary of the Tribunal that he was attacked and petitions stolen, shortly after the whistleblowing, was suspicious.

They noted that ever since Shaibu’s organisation raised the alarm on Monday, this week, she had received series of threat messages, while her family members had also been harassed endlessly for no crime other than the fact that she engaged in a patriotic act in defence of democracy and called for investigation into a crucial matter after diligent findings.

The lawyers called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, security chiefs and all relevant authorities to leave no stone unturned in protecting their colleague, saying “an injury to one is an injury to all of us.”

“With the insecurity challenge in Nigeria today, and the lawlessness being displayed, especially by desperate politicians in Kogi State in particular, and beyond, threats of this nature must not be glossed over, especially when the dare-devil politicians have made their evil intentions known even on public platforms,” they stressed.

The Convener of CDD, Barr. Ambrose Ajoyo Omoleaupen, Esq, who briefed the press on behalf of others, said, “All threats to her life must not be taken for granted but thoroughly investigated and the culprits and their sponsors nabbed before they carry out their nefarious criminality.”

According to him, the latest twist, which has involved the threat to the life of their colleague called for a closer look at the issues surrounding the issue at hand – petition filing by the political parties concerned in Kogi State.

On this, the laywers said, “It is instructive to note that suddenly after the whistleblowing, as if to lend credence to UFD’s allegations, the Secretary of the Tribunal raised the alarm, in a manner that seemed an effort to cover up something, that he had been attacked by armed hoodlums and all documents related to the petition had been taken away at gunpoint while on his way to the office from his hotel room.

“As lawyers, we deal with tangible evidence and facts, not speculations. It is on the basis of this that we have decided, without prejudice to whatever processes that are currently ongoing, to unveil the facts, to interrogate a few critical variables surrounding the whole incident as a way of furthering the cause of democracy and justice, which is a collective responsibility of all citizens.

“In the first instance, election petition documents are voluminous by nature, moreso when you are talking about petitions purportedly submitted by four (4) Political Parties. One wonders what all of those documents were doing in the custody of the Tribunal’s Secretary when they should have been safely kept in an office.

“You can’t be driving around town with such voluminous and sensitive documents that determine the very life of a petition.

“Secondly, a whole week after the purported filing and allegations raised publicly that no petition was filed, especially by the Social Democratic Party, the latter has not deemed it fit to put in the public domain valid evidence that it submitted any petition to the tribunal. At least there must have been acknowledgement documents or receipts or what is called counterpart copies given to the petitioners by the Election Petition Tribunal.

“We are of the opinion that, if the SDP had any of such documents, it would have displayed it publicly within minutes or hours of the allegations made against it by the whistle blower. Not doing that within reasonable time span, which should not be more than 12 hours after such serious allegations were raised against it, further raises credible suspicions as to question the veracity of any petition submitted within the constitutionally stipulated 21-day limit by SDP or any other Party for that matter on the Kogi State governorship election.

“To the best of our knowledge, in all of its public statements till date, the SDP has not shown any documentary evidence or proof of filing any petition within the window allowed by law. All it has been doing is to make counter allegations. We should ask whether the legal team of the SDP was also attacked by the armed hoodlums and their own copies or receipts relating to the petition were also stolen.

“Furthermore, it is somehow interesting to note that the three other political parties mentioned as having filed their own petitions, too, have remained noticeably silent on the incident whilst the SDP has been so vociferous, even assuming the position of spokesman for the tribunal’s secretary whom they claimed was allegedly ‘working’ on their petition when he was attacked.

“It is suspicious that it was after allegations of non filing of petition by the Parties that the alleged stealing of the petitions was reported. That would be a hard sell anywhere.”

The lawyers, however, threw up key questions:

“When did the SDP Governorship candidate pay for the filing of his petition? Where did he file it? At the secretariat of the Tribunal or the hotel room of the Tribunal Secretary?

“How come there was no display at the tribunal secretariat on the number of petitions filed before it was moved to Abuja?

“Is it procedurally permissible for the Tribunal’s Secretary to receive election petitions in his hotel room? How come only the SDP was aware of the alleged attack on the secretary and the one issuing statements in his defence?

“Where exactly did the Witnesses sign their statements on oath? Did they all physically sign before him and when?”

The lawyers challenged the Tribunal Secretary to show the whole world the receipt of the three other parties he claimed filed petitions.

“It does not serve the purpose of democracy or rule of law to try to supplant the fundamental tenets of justice by compromising set rules of engagement in an election.

“We wish to call on all relevant security agencies to leave no stone unturned in investigating and getting to the root of this laughable but serious incident,” they stated.