ALHAJI Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), rejected Wednesday’s court judgement which unanimously declared Bola Ahmed Tinubu as duly elected Nigeria’s president.
Both candidates have therefore vowed to appeal against the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court at the Supreme Court.
The five-member panel of the court led by the Honourable Justice Haruna Tsammani unanimous dismissed the petitions of the opposition candidates, citing their inability to prove the substance of their respective cases.
The panel equally dismissed the third petition filed by a political party, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), for being unmeritorious.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja after the pronouncement of the tribunal, the National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, Obiora Ifoh, said the judgement did not reflect the law and the desire of the people, adding that the party would not relent until the people’s will prevail as “justice was not served” in the judgement.
“The Labour Party watched with dismay and trepidation the dismissal of petitions by the five-person panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani today, and we reject the outcome of the judgment in its entirety because justice was not served, and it did not reflect the law and the desire of the people.
“Nigerians were witnesses to the electoral robbery that took place on February 25, 2023, which was globally condemned, but the Tribunal, in its wisdom, refused to accept the obvious. What is at stake is democracy, and we will not relent until the people will prevail.”
He said the party would present a more detailed position when it gets the certified true copy of the judgment.
Addressing journalists shortly after the verdict, which lasted over 12 hours, Atiku’s lead counsel, Mr Chris Uche (SAN), said he had already obtained his client’s instruction to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
“We have our client’s strong instruction to appeal the judgement,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.
Obi’s lead counsel, Mr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), similarly said his client is not satisfied with PEPC’s verdict and has given directive to appeal to the apex court.
“Our clients are dissatisfied with the judgement just delivered. I have the firm instruction of our client to challenge the judgement on appeal,” the senior lawyer said.
Speaking on the difficulties of electoral litigants to prove their suits, Uzoukwu warned that “electoral jurisprudence” would disappear. “We have to be very careful in this country, otherwise, electoral jurisprudence will disappear. When those who contest elections find it difficult to establish their case, they may resort to other means which might not be quite good,” he said.
Earlier, the five-member panel of the PEPC unanimously affirmed President Tinubu’s victory as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In addition to Justice Tsammani, other members of the panel who took turns to adopt the reasoning and conclusion of the lead judgement, include Justice Stephen Adah, Justice Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf, Justice Moses Ugo, and Justice Abbah Mohammed.
The panel held that there was total lack of credible evidence adduced by the petitioners to support their cases and described some of the legal arguments of Atiku and Obi as “fallacious and ridiculous”.
“From the foregoing, therefore, it is very clear and certain that the petitioners have failed to prove that the 2023 presidential election and the return of the 2nd respondent (Mr Tinubu) was invalidated by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022,” Mr Tsammani declared while reading the unanimous judgment.
Justice Tsammani further held: “It is very clear that there was no credible evidence by the petitioners to prove the allegations of corrupt practices” and that the petitions failed to present alternative results upon which they claimed they had won the election.
The court held that INEC was, therefore, right to declare Tinubu as the winner of the election “in the absence of any other rival or alternate results placed before this court by the petitioners that the second respondent (Mr Tinubu) who scored 8,794,722 votes as against 6,984,520 votes scored by the petitioners (Atiku and PDP)…
“Having considered and decided that the three petitions … are all devoid of merit, the petitions are hereby dismissed.
“Accordingly, I find the declaration and return of Bola Ahmed Tinubu by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mr Tsammani declared.
Justice Adah, in his concurring opinion, held that justice “is neither based on technicality nor on justice according to the suggestive clout of pressure groups…
“When a court of law is called upon to determine an election dispute, he is called upon to do justice. Our notion of doing justice is not that of doing justice according to the whims and caprices of the judges or the parties; it must be justice according to law.”
The panel dismissed all the arguments and the evidence led by the petitioners, holding that the petitions were not supported by “credible evidence.”
Justice Bolaji-Yusuf, the only female justice on the panel, in her adoption of the judgement her displeasure thus: “A petitioner is not permitted to engage in fishing expedition or a roving enquiry as the petitioners herein did.”
She added that “it is clear from the outset that the petitioners were engaging in wild goose chase and an inquisitorial adventure” she added.
The PEPC also held that the legal teams of the petitioners committed serious procedural blunders. One such blunder, the court held, was the finding that the petitioners failed to comply with strict legal and judicial authorities that mandate petitioners to file the statements on oath of all their witnesses along with their petitions or before the close of the three-week window for filing an election petition.
Lack of adherence to this led to the court rejecting 10 out of the 13 witnesses called by Obi and 15 out of the 27 by Atiku, which led to expunging the testimonies of the affected witnesses and the exhibits they tendered.
“While they were complaining of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act against the first respondent (INEC), their own petitions were massively deficient and were in non-compliance with the same Electoral Act,” Justice Adah held.
The court equally dismissed a substantial number of paragraphs of the petitions that were adjudged to be “vague”, “imprecise”, and “generic” with no particulars, such as the details of polling units alleged irregularities took place.
The court resolved all the key issues raised by the petitioners against them and upheld the arguments of the respondents – the INEC, Mr Tinubu, Mr Shettima, and the APC.
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For instance, it dismissed the claim by the petitioners that Tinubu needed to have won 25 per cent of the lawful votes cast in the federal capital even when he had met the requirement in more than two-thirds or 24 out of 36 states of the federation. The court said all votes are equal, as such, the votes of the federal capital voters could not have superior value.
The court also dismissed the issue of the judgement of a US District Court in Northern Illinois, which ordered the forfeiture of $460,000 belonging to President Tinubu, and said it could not be a basis for disqualifying him from running for the presidency.
Justice Bolaji-Yusuf held that it was “civil forfeiture” and not a “criminal forfeiture”. According to her, civil forfeiture or non-conviction-based forfeiture “is not a conviction or verdict of guilt after an indictment, trial and conviction”. He said it was used “when the government’s interest is merely to recover proceeds of unlawful activity.”
She explained further that the criminal forfeiture envisaged under section 137(1)(d) of the constitution cited by the petitioners “is the seizure of the property connected with a crime after obtaining a conviction, as part of the sentence for the crime.”
The court also held that the Supreme Court had decisively decided the alleged double nomination of Vice President Shettima as APC’s vice-presidential candidate and Borno Central candidate as untrue.
The court held that Shettima had withdrawn his nomination as a senatorial candidate before he was nominated as Tinubu’s running mate.
The court further held that the failure of INEC to upload polling unit results to IReV, an online portal accessible by the public to view scanned copies of the result sheets in real time, did not invalidate the election results. It added that the collation process of results recognised by law is manual, and that IReV “is not a collation system”.