The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi, have advised their lawyers to go on appeal at the Supreme Court after rejecting yesterday’s judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal affirming the election of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Legal Adviser to the Labour Party, Kehinde Edun, vowed to challenge the judgment at the Supreme Court even as the Atiku’s Lead Counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), said that he had received instructions from his client to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.
“The judgment has been delivered but we have not received justice. Luckily, the law has given us leverage to go on appeal to the Supreme Court. “We have instructions from our clients to go to the Supreme Court. The struggle continues.”
The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) which began sitting at 9.40am at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, yesterday, September 6, ruled that the petition filed by Atiku and Obi and their parties had no merit and unanimously upheld Tinubu’s electoral victory in the February 25 presidential election.
The Tribunal said that the petitioners were unable to state the figures they claimed were reduced from the election results they garnered in different states of the federation, especially in Ondo, Oyo, Rivers, Yobe, Borno, Tabara, Osun and Lagos States.
It said that the petitioners equally failed to state the polling units where over-voting occurred or the exact figures of unlawful votes that were credited to Tinubu by the INEC.
It stressed that though Obi and LP said they would rely on spreadsheets as well as forensic reports and expert analysis of their expert witnesses, they failed to attach the documents to the petition or serve the same on the respondents as required by the law.
The Tribunal said that though the petition contained serious allegations that bordered on violence, non-voting, suppression of votes, fictitious entry of election results and corrupt practices, Obi and his party, however, failed to give particulars of specific polling units where the incidents took place.
It held that several portions of the petition that contained the allegations were “vague, imprecise, nebulous and bereft of particular materials.”
Therefore, the court struck out paragraphs 9, 60, 61, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 76, 77, 78, 83 and 89 of the petition.
“They failed to state the number of votes affected and the number of people disenfranchised. The determination of the election is about figures,” Justice Mohammed declared.
He said: “It is unimaginable that a petitioner will allege widespread rigging in 176,000 polling units, over 8,000 wards, 774 LGAs, 36 states and FCT without stating the specific place where the alleged irregularities occur.
“The law is very clear that where someone alleged irregularities in a particular polling unit, such person must prove the particular irregularities in that polling unit for him to succeed in his petition.
“Labour Party made generic allegations of irregularities and said they would rely on spreadsheets, inspection reports, and forensic analysis but the documents promised by the petitioners were not attached to the petition.”
Obi nomination validated
Nevertheless, the court dismissed the contention of the respondents – Tinubu and the APC- that Obi was not validly nominated by the LP to contest the presidential election.
It noted that the respondents had argued that Obi left the PDP on May 24, 2022 and joined the LP on May 27, 2022.
The respondents in its petition claimed that as of May 30, 2022, Obi was not a valid member of the LP and could not have duly participated in its presidential primary election.
“By the provision of section 52 and section 65 of the Electoral Act, INEC is at liberty to prescribe the manner in which results can be transmitted. INEC cannot be compelled to electronically transmit results,” the court held.
The tribunal rejected the European Union Election Observers Mission report on the February 25 presidential election on by Peter Obi and the Labour Party.
The court said it rejected the report on the grounds that it was not tendered by an official of the body which is the author and has custody of the document.
The tribunal similarly dismissed allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 filed against Tinubu’s election by Atiku and the PDP.
Justice Adah said the petitioners failed to substantiate their claim that the election did not comply with the provisions of sections 134 and 135 of the Electoral Act.
He said, “There has to be sufficient grounds before the petitioners can establish that there was no substantial compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election. The petitioners have in their petitions, listed some of the facts relating to their complaints of non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022.
‘’The key facts are in paragraphs 18, 22, 23,, 25, 28, 29, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40-44, 46 and 48 of the petition. The respondents have issues with the petitioners in respect of this issue and they all denied the facts pleaded by the petitioners.
“And 135 (1) says: “An election shall not be liable to be invalidated by reason of non – compliance with the provisions of this Act if it appears to the Election Tribunal or Court that the election was conducted substantially in accordance with the principles of this Act and that the non-compliance did not affect substantially the result of the election.”
That said, Justice Adah further held that “This ground of non – compliance with the Electoral Act has been in all our election laws even when we had a parliamentary system of government.”
Adah, who read the ruling on objections against the petition, expunged several documents tendered by Atiku on the grounds that the exhibits were made during the pendency of the petition.
The tribunal equally expunged from the court’s records several key witnesses presented by Atiku for having been made in manners not known to law.
It held that the wrongful mode adopted by the Adamawa – born presidential candidate in the construction of the petition made several paragraphs liable for expunging due to lack of merit.
The court went further to strike out some portions of the reply filed by Atiku and his party, including the part where they accused Tinubu of having dual citizenship.
It also rejected the aspect where the petitioners claimed Tinubu was not qualified on the grounds of alleged criminal conviction and criminal forfeiture in the US.
The panel recalled that the petitioner made grievous allegations against Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and the Chairman of Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi, Friday Adejoh, but he neglected to join them as respondents in his petition.
Justice Ugoh held that the failure to join the governor who was accused of electoral fraud obstructed the petition because the governor was denied the opportunity to defend himself as required by law.
Therefore, the justice dismissed the allegations of over-voting nationwide by the petitioner saying that such pleadings run foul of the law because he failed to mention the specific locations where the alleged over-voting took place.
Atiku’s petition was also faulted for introducing several facts and allegations in unlawful ways that caught the respondents unaware, adding that the tactic employed was unfair and made him clever by half.
Amongst the new facts he was said to have wrongfully introduced were the allegations of certificate forgery, criminal conviction, and dual citizenship of Guinea made against Tinubu outside the mode of filing a petition.
The tribunal had commenced the day’s proceedings by dismissing the petition by the Allied Peoples Movement challenging the qualification of Vice President Kashim Shettima.
“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.
‘’Details of the party’s position will be presented after consultation with our lawyers after the Certified True Copy of the judgment is made available to us.”
Meanwhile, President Tinubu has assured Nigerians of his renewed and energised focus on delivering his vision of a unified, peaceful and prosperous nation, following the judgment by the Presidential Election Petition 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, said in a statement.
The President said that he recognised the diligence, undaunted thoroughness, and professionalism of the five-member bench in interpreting the law.
He said that the principles of presumption of regularity of elections and substantial conformity made it extremely difficult to prosecute election petitions successfully.
The founder of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, expressed satisfaction with the ruling which upheld Tinubu’s electoral victory.
He said: “I am not surprised at the outcome of the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. Rather than prove a case of substantial non – compliance with the electoral law, they (petitioners) seemed to have relied on scoring technical points to win their petitions. Their strategy failed.’’
Source: Opshot media.