- Court rejects 15 witnesses in Atiku’s case against President
- Upholds INEC’s authority, discretion in election result transmission
- LP, Atiku reject tribunal’s judgment
- Sanwo-Olu, Abiodun, Bello, others congratulate Tinubu
BY NSEOBONG OKON-EKONG, BRIGHT JACOB
President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday assured Nigerians that he is more energized and focused on delivering his vision of a unified, peaceful, and prosperous nation, following the judgment by the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja.
“President Tinubu welcomes the judgment of the Tribunal with an intense sense of solemn responsibility and preparedness to serve all Nigerians, irrespective of all diverse political persuasions, faiths, and tribal identities,” the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, revealed in a statement he signed on Wednesday night.
The President said he recognised the diligence, undaunted thoroughness, and professionalism of the five-member bench, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani in interpreting the law.
He affirmed that his commitment to the rule of law, and the unhindered discharge of duties by the Tribunal, as witnessed in the panel’s exclusive respect for the merits of the petitions brought forward, further reflects the continuing maturation of Nigeria’s legal system.
According to Tinubu, the development speaks to the advancement of Africa’s largest democracy “at a time when our democratic system of government is under test in other parts of the continent.”
“The President believes the Presidential candidates and political parties that have lawfully exercised their rights by participating in the 2023 general elections and the judicial process that followed, have affirmed Nigeria’s democratic credentials.
“Therefore, he urged his valiant challengers to inspire their supporters in the trust that the spirit of patriotism will now and forever be elevated above partisan considerations, manifesting into support for our Government to improve the livelihood of all Nigerians.
“President Tinubu thanks Nigerians for the mandate given to him to serve our country, while promising to meet and exceed their expectations, by the grace of God Almighty, and through very diligent hard work with the team that has been put in place for that sole purpose,” Ngelale concluded.
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday ruled that President Tinubu was properly elected and should continue in office as the leading opposition parties, People’s Democratic Party and Labour Party that challenged his victory in the 2023 presidential election failed woefully to substantiate their allegations against Tinubu who carried the presidential flag of the All Progressives Congress.
The five-member panel, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, which cited several authorities including previous decisions of the nation’s apex court, the Supreme Court, largely followed the pattern of legal challenge to the outcome of a presidential election, where none has ever succeeded.
Tinubu of the APC was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, beating former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the LP.
Abubakar and Obi challenged the INEC decision in court, alleging widespread irregularities and asked the court to cancel the election.
But the judges threw away all the prayers sought by Obi and Atiku, including those alleging fraud, allegations that Tinubu was ineligible to run.
According to one of the judges, “This petition is hereby declared unmeritorious.”
Right to approach the Supreme Court
However, Atiku and Obi can appeal to the Supreme Court to dismiss the tribunal’s ruling. But any appeal must be concluded within 60 days of the date of the tribunal judgement. The LP has already rejected the judgement.
National Publicity Secretary of the LP, Obiora Ifoh, stated, “The Labour Party watched with dismay and trepidation the dismissal of petitions by the five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani today (yesterday), 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.”
The party further said its position would be presented after consultation with its lawyers when the certified true copy of the judgement is made available.
Why tribunal rejected Abubakar’s witnesses
One of the five-man judges of the PEPT, Justice Stephen Adah explained that the Tribunal rejected the testimonies of the 15 out of the 27 witnesses put forward by the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar on the grounds that the petitioner failed to file their statements on oath along with the petition.
The tribunal rejected the witnesses because of their failure to establish Atiku’s case against the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the February 25 presidential election.
It disclosed that the petitioner could not file the statements on oath before the close of the 21-day window given from the date election result was announced.
Tinubu can’t be disqualified for forfeiture of drug money
The PEPT ruled that President Bola Tinubu cannot be disqualified on the basis of his forfeiture of drug money in the United States.
The Nigeria Police, the Tribunal said previously cleared the Nigerian President of any criminal issues through an inquiry the police made to the U.S. law enforcement. The court said the fact that Tinubu has been able to enter and exit the U.S. means he has no criminal case.
LP fails to identify polling units that recorded irregularities
One of the highlights of the PEPT was that the LP presidential candidate, Peter Obi failed to identify some polling units that recorded irregularities during the presidential election.
Justice Abba Mohammed, who read the judgement ruled that Obi made a generic accusation of election malpractice. Mohammed also stated that the petitioners failed to prove that their votes were suppressed by failing to specify the number of votes suppressed.
“The petitioners failed to state the number of votes affected and the number of people disenfranchised. They also failed to prove that their votes were suppressed by failing to specify the number of votes suppressed. The determination of the election is about figures,” the judge said.
APC loses bid to challenge Obi’s membership of LP
The PEPT dismissed a petition filed by the APC challenging the membership of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the LP. The APC had argued that Obi was not a valid member of the LP at the time of the election, as he had not been a member of the party for at least 30 days before the party’s presidential primary.
However, the PEPT ruled that the APC’s petition was incompetent, insisting that only political parties can say who their members are.
PEPT dismisses 25% FCT vote requirement
The PEPT dismissed the petition alleging that the requirement for presidential candidates to be declared winners of the election is that they must secure 25% of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory. Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, said that there was no special status attached to the FCT and that it is equal to every other state in Nigeria.
The Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi had challenged the election of President Bola Tinubu, arguing that Tinubu should be disqualified from being president because he did not win 25% of the votes cast in the FCT.
Tinubu’s Guinean passport not properly submitted as evidence
The PEPT decided that although President Bola Tinubu specifically stated in his nomination filed under oath before the Independent National Electoral Commission that he had never obtained a foreign citizenship, the lie under oath could not be used to nullify his election because his foreign passport was not adequately submitted in court.
The judges said Tinubu’s Guinean passport was not properly certified as evidence before the court and was therefore expunged.
Electronic transmission of election results not mandatory
The PEPT has clarified that the Electoral Act of 2022 does not mandate the electronic transmission of election results.
The five-member panel, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, emphasized that the only technology requirement specified for use by INEC during elections is the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System.
He stated, “The Electoral Act 2022 does not provide for the electronic transmission of election results. It’s at best optional.”
Sanwo-Olu, Abiodun congratulate President
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has congratulated President Tinubu on the well-deserved victory at the Presidential Election Petition Court.
Reacting to the court verdict, Governor Sanwo-Olu said the APC members across Nigeria and President Tinubu, worked very hard for the victory enjoyed at the February 25 presidential election, noting that Wednesday’s court decision, which was in favour of the President was comforting and also an affirmation of the will of over eight million Nigerians who filed out to cast their ballots for the APC and President Tinubu as their choice.
Governor Sanwo-Olu in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, said Nigerians had spoken through the ballots and the court had also validated the citizens’ decision by Wednesday’s judicial pronouncements, which upheld the victory of President Tinubu during the 2023 presidential poll.
The Governor said millions of Nigerians were not in doubt as regards the mandate freely given to President Tinubu to steer the ship of Nigeria for four years based on his track records and laudable achievements as a two-term Governor of Lagos State.
He said, “What we are witnessing today is the beauty of democracy and the rule of law. We had an election in February this year where over eight million Nigerians voted to elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We ordinarily thought that the losers should have displayed a good spirit of sportsmanship by congratulating the winner (President Tinubu) but they chose to contest the election results, which is within their rights. Now that the election and the results have been upheld by the Court, I hope they will do the needful.
“I congratulate the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Bola Tinubu on his well-deserved victory at the Presidential Election Tribunal Court.
“I also congratulate the leadership and members of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, and all Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora on this very landmark judicial victory.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu, enjoined Nigerians across party divide to team up with President Tinubu to deliver the real dividends of democracy to Nigerians through the Renewed Hope agenda of the incumbent administration, saying the judicial verdict was a victory for democracy and the rule of law.
Similarly, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State has also congratulated President Ahmed Tinubu and the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, on their resounding victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Abiodun said in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Lekan Adeniran, that the tribunal’s verdict was an affirmation of the trust reposed in the President by Nigerians as evidenced in the outcome of the presidential election.
He described the judgment as sound, detailed and comprehensive, noting that the judges displayed unmatched courage in the discharge of their duties.
“It is heartwarming that the tribunal judges did not succumb to intimidation by the opposition, who deployed various antics to sway the judgement in their favour.
“The judgement is a further testament to the fact that the judiciary is the last hope of our people,” Governor Abiodun said.
The National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, Abdullahi Ganduje, equally commended Wednesday’s judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal that validated the victory of President Tinubu at the 2023 election.
In a statement issued in Abuja, Ganduje described the verdict as thorough; stressing that it addressed all the issues raised by the petitioners.
According to the former Kano State Governor, the judgment was a true reflection of the mandate Nigerians delivered at the last presidential election.
Consequently, the APC national chairman urged the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, and his counterpart in the People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, to cooperate with the present administration in its effort to address the myriad of challenges facing the country.
He noted that the resolve by both politicians to challenge Tinubu’s victory at the tribunal spoke volumes of their faith in the nation’s judicial system.
“I had no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the President would come out victorious, considering the massive support Nigerians gave him and our party the APC before and during the Presidential Election.
“May I also congratulate the Nigerian Judiciary for adjudicating on the issues arising from the presidential election without fear and favour by doing the right thing.
“With this judgment, a precedent has been set for electoral matters in the country. The judgment attests to the fact that the rule of law would always reign supreme and our hard-earned democracy would further continue to blossom beyond limits.
“For the opposition, I urge you to accept the verdict of the tribunal. There would always be another round of elections whereby, you can test your popularity and acceptability from the electorates. Once more, I congratulate President Tinubu, our teeming supporters who stood by the party through thick and thin,” he said.
Atiku to appeal verdict
However, the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s lead counsel, Chris Uche, SAN, has said the legal team has been ordered to appeal against the unanimous judgment upholding the victory of President Tinubu.
He made this known while briefing journalists on the decision of Atiku on the judgement.
Uche, who expressed disappointment over the ruling, said his client and the legal team had expected the court would have given a verdict that would improve and encourage the use of technology in elections.
He, however, noted that they would appeal the verdict, adding that the struggle has not ended.
Uche said, “The judgment has been delivered but we have not received justice. Luckily, the Constitution has given us the right to appeal. This is a court of first instance. This is a struggle not for our client but for the constitution of the country and democracy. We were expecting an outcome that would improve and encourage the use of tech to enhance election management and transparency in the country.
“We believe that when we get to the Supreme Court, they will have the opportunity to review things said here today. We have the instructions of our client to go ahead to appeal. The struggle has not ended. “