The legal battle over who won the February 25 presidential election will be over on Thursday as the Supreme Court delivers its verdict.
The candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi respectively are challenging the outcome of the poll that produced President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Presidential Election Petitions Court had, on September 6, dismissed Atiku and Obi’s petitions for lack of evidence, but the duo later filed appeals.
Atiku and Obi, through their lawyers, Chris Uche and Livy Uzoukwu respectively, had, on Monday, argued their cases before the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Inyang Okoro; while the appeal of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and its presidential candidate, Chichi Ojei, through their counsel, Chukwuma Maachukwu-Ume, was dismissed after they withdrew it. Atiku and Obi’s appeals were predicated on four major grounds.
These included whether the use of technology in the transmission and the collation of results was mandatory; whether Sections 134(2)(b), 2(2), 3(1) and 299 of the Nigerian Constitution made it mandatory for the president to score 25 percent of votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Other grounds were whether the president’s forfeiture of $460,000 to a United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois disqualifies him from seeking the office under Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and whether the president was disqualified as a result of double nomination of his running mate.
There was an additional issue raised by Atiku on whether leave could be granted admitting fresh evidence being depositions on Tinubu’s academic records from the Chicago State University.
Atiku and his party had also contended that the lower court was wrong in expunging some paragraphs of their petition and witnesses’ statements on oath in aid of their petition on the grounds that they were subpoenaed during the trial and not frontloaded along with the petition.
They had also contended that the panel’s use of “disparaging words” in dealing with their petition as provided by the Revised Code for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, promulgated by the National Judicial Council was a miscarriage of justice.
“The lower court was wrong in striking out paragraphs of the petition and replies of the appellants; the lower court sacrificed substantial justice on the altar of technicalities,” Atiku’s lawyer had argued.
Obi, on his part, had submitted that the lower court erred for rejecting his evidence of 18,088 certified blurred polling unit results, including 8,123 blurred and blank copies of unreadable images produced by INEC, which specifically comprised hundreds of results from Kaduna, Gombe, Bauchi and others.
In their replies, Tinubu and the APC, through their lawyers, SANs Wole Olanipekun and Akin Olujinmi, had asked the Supreme Court to dismiss Atiku and Obi’s appeals “for constituting an abuse of the court process and lacking merit.”
Olanipekun also requested the apex court to decline the jurisdiction on accepting any fresh evidence as the 180 days under the law to hear election petitions had passed.
I am hopeful of victory-Tinubu
The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, yesterday took to his X (formerly Twitter) account and expressed hope that the apex court would affirm Tinubu’s victory.
“Day of Judgment Tomorrow (today). The Supreme Court will give its verdict tomorrow in the appeals filed by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
“They are challenging the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, President Bola Tinubu in the 25 February election.
We, in the APC, are hopeful for victory. We are hopeful that the apex court will affirm the sanctity of the 8.9m votes of Nigerians that gave President Tinubu victory last February,” Onanuga wrote.
I have made my case strongly–Atiku
Atiku, through his media adviser, Paul Ibe, told Daily Trust yesterday that he had made his case strongly.
He said: “We have made our case and we have made it strongly, we have provided extra evidence as to why Bola A. Tinubu should not be the president. When Tinubu was trying to block the records of the Chicago State University (CSU), he did say that it would cause him irreparable damage.
“Now that we’ve produced this evidence and the deposition, it’s very clear that Tinubu submitted forged documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the purposes of the 2023 general elections. The issue of a female being on the form that he used in getting admission to the CSU is also curious.
“So also is the record that he attended Government College in Lagos in 1970 which was founded four years after he had attended the school.”
“With this overwhelming evidence, we expect that the Supreme Court will render justice according to the law with constitutional provisions as to who is qualified. He was never qualified to have been on the ballot.
“If the Supreme Court does not consider our submission weighty enough, there’s also the FBI and other security agencies releasing his records which we don’t know yet, but if what transpired with the CSU deposition and records is anything to go by, Nigerians will have to live with the reality that they have a president who forged document and that’ll be something Nigerians will have to live with and it’ll be an irreparable damage to us as a people and as a country.
“I wonder how the president of Nigeria, with all the international attention on this matter, will present himself before the international community. We have to be prepared to live with that reality if the Supreme Court does not agree with our evidence that we’ve adduced,” Ibe stated.
We’re confident of Obi’s victory – LP
The National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, Obiora Ifoh, told Daily Trust that the party was confident of Obi’s victory at the Supreme Court.
“We’re optimistic that victory would be ours; this is what justice demands and this is what Nigerians want. We would not lose hope, we’ve presented our case and we’ve even presented fresh evidence to back our claims.
“If something happened and we want justice, in as much as there’s still time, we put everything we want. We’re confident and we expect victory for our presidential candidate, for the party (LP) and for Nigerians and we know that there would be jubilation everywhere in Nigeria,” Ifoh said.
Security beefed up at the Supreme Court complex
Daily Trust reports that there has been increased security around the Supreme Court complex in the Three Arms Zone of Abuja. Operatives were said to have been instructed to prevent anybody who has no business around the area from gaining entrance.
Our correspondent, who was at the Supreme Court complex yesterday, observed that security vehicles were stationed on the bridge leading to the Presidential Villa, opposite the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
Uncertainty grips Supreme Court staff
Although staff of the Supreme Court were not directed to stay away from work during the time of the judgment, some of them said they were uncertain about turning up to work.
Those who spoke to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity, said they did not receive any circular directing them to stay away from work as was the case during the judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Court sitting at the Court of Appeal.
A staff member in the records office said: “We have not been directed not to come to work because we, in the Supreme Court, are not aware of whatever is happening.”