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Parties Optimistic As Tribunal Rules On Atiku, Obi’s Petitions

 

Interested parties in the February 25 presidential election have said they are optimistic of getting a favourable judgement as the Presidential Election Petitions Court fixed Wednesday to announce its verdict.

Presidential candidates of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi; and Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Chichi Ojei had filed the petitions challenging the declaration President Bola Tinubu as winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Umar Bangari, Esq in a statement yesterday confirmed that the five-member panel presided by Justice Haruna Tsammani has also directed that media access to the proceeding would strictly be on accreditation. 

The panel, according to the statement also approved the live transmission of the proceedings of the three petitions, which according to it, is to promote transparency and openness. 

“Only accredited individuals, including counsel and representatives of political parties will be granted access into the courtroom. Interested members of the public are advised to watch the proceedings from their television sets,” the panel said. 

Earlier, the Department of State Services (DSS) had warned against violent protests over the outcome of the proceedings.

The issues 

Atiku and PDP, through their counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) contended that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election having submitted “forged certificates” including from the Chicago State University and the NYSC certificate with the name ‘Adekunle.’ 

The leading opposition party and its candidate argued that Tinubu was fined the sum of $460,000 in drug and narcotic related offences in the Northern District Court of Illinois, USA in 1993, which is a breach of Section 137(i)(d) of the Nigerian Constitution, adding that he failed to disclose his dual citizenship with Guinea in INEC form EC9. 

They further contended that Tinubu failed to score 25 per cent of the total votes cast in the FCT as provided in Section 134(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, that his running mate was not properly nominated having been a candidate of the Borno Central Senatorial District before he became the vice presidential candidate. 

According to them, the election was marred by irregularities and corrupt acts including the non-compliance with the Electoral Act for the direct upload of results from the polling units after the sum of N355 billion was invested in it. 

In their petitions, Obi and LP, through their lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) contended that Tinubu was disqualified by the reason of double nomination of his running mate, Kashim Shettima in more than one constituency in one election cycle after he was nominated APC candidate for the senatorial seat and remained so until July 15, 2022, when he was formally substituted, which breached Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022. 

They also contended that the forfeiture of the sum of $460,000 in the USA was a fine as defined in the constitution and the previous judgments of the Supreme Court. 

Obi contended that the non-upload of results of the election from the BVAS machines to IREV resulted in blurred results from INEC with 18,088 polling unit results and votes cast by 2.55 million voters; he submitted that he was the only candidate with the majority of lawful votes cast and the 25 per cent required in the FCT under Section 134(2) of the Nigerian Constitution. 

In their sole issue before the tribunal, APM and Ojei, through their lead counsel, Yakubu Maikasuwa (SAN) contended that Tinubu and Shettima were not validly nominated to contest the February 25. They argue that by the combined reading of sections 131(c) and 142(2) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 and Section 133 of the Electoral Act made them to invalid. 

They contended that when Kabiru Masari announced his withdrawal as an APC placeholder on June 24, 2022 to the date Shettima’s name was forwarded to INEC on July 14, 2022, was 21 days and that breached Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022, which provides for 14 days for the replacement of a candidate for an election. 

In their replies, INEC, through its lead counsel, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) asked the court to dismiss the petitioners’ petitions submitting that APM’s petition had been determined by the Supreme Court on May 26. 

INEC said both Atiku and Obi failed to prove that electronic collation of results was provided for in the law. He said they failed to counter its position that technical glitches on the Amazon Website Service (AWS) affected the upload of results. 

On his part, Tinubu, through his lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) asked the court to dismiss the petitions for failing to establish the claims made before the court. 

He asked the court to hold that Tinubu scored 25 per cent of two-thirds of votes in the FCT and had the requisite numbers as interpreted by the courts in Shagari vs Awolowo in 1979, adding that the intention of the constitution was not to make the FCT a special state but the 37th state of the federation.

Counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) also asked the court to dismiss the petitions for lacking in merit. 

Tribunal will affirm Tinubu’s mandate – APC 

But the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed optimism that the tribunal would affirm President Tinubu as winner of the election tomorrow.  

The APC National Publicity Secretary, Barrister Felix Morka, told Daily Trust yesterday that the party expects nothing other than affirmation of Tinubu’s victory. He said, “President Bola Ahmed Tinubu won the last presidential election fair and square. 

“We are confident that the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal will affirm the mandate handed to President Tinubu by the majority of the Nigerian electorate.”

We expect justice, nothing else – Atiku 

Candidate of the PDP, Atiku has, however, said the judgment should be based on the 1999 Constitution as amended. 

He said he expects nothing else, but that justice should be served in the petition in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act 2022. 

Atiku, a former vice president, while reacting to the announcement of Wednesday as the judgment day told Daily Trust through his Media Adviser, Mr Paul Ibe that “We expect that the PEPT will render justice in line with the 1999 constitution as amended and all the other bodies of law that guided the election.” 

Meanwhile, efforts to get the reaction of the national leadership of the PDP was not successful as the National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba neither answered his phone calls nor responded to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.

Ballots, not tribunal will make pronouncement – LP 

Reacting, the Labour Party (LP) expressed optimism that the judgement would be in its favour tomorrow. 

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Obiora Ifoh, told Daily Trust that the wish of Nigerians would prevail, saying, “We are optimistic that the judgement would be in our favour and that all our prayers to the tribunal would be positive.” 

Also, the Connected Development (CODE) has urged Nigerians, especially the youths to be law abiding and allow the judicial process to take its course. 

Executive Director of CODE, Mallam Hamzat Lawal, said this yesterday in Abuja at the formal presentation of the ‘Uzabe: Nigeria Decides Citizen Led Election Report’. 

He said, “To me, everywhere is calm, there is no tension, there is no cause for alarm. In 2011, 2015 and 2019, people who were aggrieved went to court and there is no difference in 2023. 

“One hopes that we would have a process free from politicians interference; a process that is expected to be transparent and credible so that we can have a situation that the ballot rather than the judiciary would make pronouncement. I have confidence in the judiciary and we would continue to support the process.”

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