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Alleged forgery: Anxiety mounts as Supreme Court rules on Atiku’s appeal today

Today’s Supreme Court hearing of a motion filed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to present new evidence proving that President Bola Tinubu submitted a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the February 25, 2023 presidential election has heightened tensions.

In a hearing notice sent to the parties in the appeal, the Supreme Court stated that they will address its panel of seven justices today on whether it has the authority to grant the request.

In a reaction to the session yesterday, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on whose Atiku contested the election, said it expects a favourable hearing at the apex court.

Also, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the objections raised by Tinubu and his deputy, Senator Kashim Shettima.

APM, in its appeal, seeks to upturn the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) for being incompetent and frivolous in nature.

Also to address the court on the contentious request are lawyers from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who are joint respondents in the motion.

The appellant, through its lead counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), contended that the said notice of preliminary objection is not only lacking in merit but also misleading in law as it only attacked some grounds of the notice of appeal, leaving out other grounds.

Ume specifically argued that the said notice of preliminary objection filed by the 3rd and 4th respondents only challenged the competence of grounds 1,2,3,5,6 and 7 of the appellant’s notice of appeal, thereby accepting grounds 4, 8, 9 and 10 of the notice of appeal as good and competent grounds of appeal.

Picking further holes in the notice of preliminary objection, the APM’s lead counsel referred the apex court to the case law in Ayorinde V Kuforiji (2022) LPELR -56600 to submit that “the law is trite that where a respondent to an appeal intends to challenge the competence of certain grounds of appeal as contained in the notice of appeal, he shall file a motion on notice and not a notice of preliminary objection as the 3rd and 4th respondents have erroneously done.”

He further submitted that the effect of filing the notice of preliminary objection in place of a motion on notice as the 3rd and 4th respondents had erroneously done in this appeal is that the said notice of preliminary objection is incompetent and liable to be struck out/dismissed as was held in Eneyo & Ors V Ngere & Ors (2022) LPELR -5880 (Supreme Court) decision.

The appellant said another virus that made 3rd and 4th respondents’ notice of preliminary objection incompetent is that “all the legal submissions made in support of the notice of preliminary objection were exclusively in a “written address” attached to the notice and not a word, phrase or sentence was made in the brief of argument in support of the notice.”

In its notice of appeal, marked SC/CV/936/2023, pending before the Supreme Court, APM is seeking an order setting aside the return and declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election on the grounds that it was made in violation of section 142 (1) of the 1999 constitution.

Before that, the party had prayed the apex court to allow its appeal and set aside the judgment of the PEPC for being perverse and having occasioned a miscarriage of justice against it.

It equally prayed the Supreme Court to order that Tinubu was not qualified to contest as the presidential candidate of the APC, having violated section 142 (1) of the 1999 constitution.

Meanwhile, the PDP has said that guided by the provisions of the law, the body of evidence, circumstances and facts presented before it, the apex court will deliver justice.

The main opposition party said this yesterday as the apex court commences hearing on the February 25, 2023 Presidential Election Appeal today.

PDP national publicity secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba, said the party believes that the issues of the February 2023 Presidential election, “the barefaced violation of rules and the laws, the brazen manipulations and falsifications in perversion of our electoral process have put our democracy in a precarious situation.”

He added Nigerins and the whole world look forward to the Supreme Court for justice in the hope that the Court will apply the laws, including the express provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act, 2022 and INEC Guidelines and Regulations in delivering substantial justice in the matter.

“The earnest expectation of Nigerians and lovers of democracy across the world is that the Supreme Court will use this case to firmly validate the maxim that the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man.

“Nigerians are therefore optimistic in hoping that the Supreme Court will dispense substantial justice according to law and fact in the appeal,” he said.

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