The Supreme Court on Thursday resolved the eight-month legal battle over the outcome of the February 25 presidential election in favour of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It dismissed the separate appeals by the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, for lacking in merit and being vexatious.
In upholding Tinubu’s election victory, the seven-member panel of justices led by Justice Inyang Okoro held that the appellants failed to adduce evidence in support of their grounds of appeal.
Other members of the panel included Justices Uwani Abba Aji, Mohammed Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Abubakar Tijjani and Emmanuel Agim.
In the lead judgment, Justice Okoro said, “On the whole, having resolved all the issues against the appellants, it is my view that there is no merit in this petition, and it is hereby dismissed.
“The judgment of the court below delivered on September 6 affirming the election of the second respondent (Tinubu) as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is hereby affirmed.”
The panel, however, did not award costs against of the parties.
Atiku and Obi had raised about seven grounds against the September 6 judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Court.
The grounds included whether the use of technology in the transmission and collation of results i.e., BVAS and IREV 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 FCT.
Others were whether the president’s forfeiture of the sum of $460,000 to a US District Court of the Northern District of Illinois disqualifies him from seeking the office under Section 137(1)(d) of the Constitution of Nigeria and whether the president was disqualified as a result of double nomination of his running mate.
Atiku also sought to tender fresh evidence of the deposition of the Chicago State University (CSU) certificate of Tinubu.
In dismissing the application for the tendering of fresh evidence from the CSU, the panel held that the 180 days within which to file fresh evidence had lapsed and could not be expanded.
On the non-transmission of results of the presidential election directly from the polling units, the panel ruled that IREV is not a collation system. It said INEC’s regulations showed that electronic transmission of result was only necessary where manual collation does not exist.
The apex court adopted the verdict of the lower court that the $460,000 which Tinubu forfeited in the US and the document of dual citizenship were brought only during the reply to the respondents and not during the initial filing.
On the non-transmission of results of the presidential election directly from the polling units, the panel ruled that IREV is not a collation system.
The justice said the appellant’s sole reliance on the non-transmission of results live as a ground of the non-compliance could not be a ground to nullify the election, adding INEC’s regulations showed that where the IREV portal fails, manual collation could be used.
On the requirement of 25 percent in the FCT, the panel held that the constitutional intends a liberal approach and holistic interpretation on such issues not a narrow one.
It said the legislature did not intend to create injustice by making that provision and not where a candidate scores 25 percent in 30 states but failed to score same in the FCT, he cannot be president.
On the expunction of paragraphs of their petition and subpoenaed witnesses, the panel held that the law does not allow the amendment or introduction of fresh matters or to expand the hearing time as provided in the law, adding that presenting their matters in bits would rob the respondents of fair hearing.
The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the new paragraphs were “vague and imprecise and lacking in particulars” and relevant parties mentioned by the witnesses in alleged irregularities, especially in Kogi State, were not joined in the petition.
“Election petitions are sui generis, which means that they stand on their own,” the panel said. On the alleged use of disparaging words by justices of the lower court, Justice Okoro said the context in which they were made was not to disparage the appellants.
He added that some appellants used threatening messages against the justices and engaged in media trial after submitting their matters in the court.
The panel said Atiku’s claim that INEC’s averment admitting his victory in 21 states was admission against interest in the declaration of Tinubu was not relevant as the constitution only recognises majority votes and the result showed he only polled 6,984,520 votes against Tinubu’s 8,794,726 votes.
The panel also dismissed the same appeal by Obi and LP, saying the issues were similar to the one canvassed by Atiku and PDP except for the issue of the double nomination, which was dismissed as already decided.
It’s time to build Nigeria together-Tinubu
Reacting to the verdict, Tinubu, in a statement, said despite the fusillade of pressure and attempts at intimidation by some political actors, the judiciary demonstrated its unequivocal commitment to upholding the rule of law for the uplift and defence of humanity.
He said it was affirmed once more that the APC had freely and fairly won the popular mandate of Nigerians, which had since given rise to his leadership of Nigeria “at a tumultuous period of unprecedented reforms in our history as a nation.”
He said the victory had further energised and strengthened his commitment to continuing to serve all Nigerians of all political persuasions, tribes and faiths, with honour and total respect for the diverse opinions and uniting values of the citizens.
He said his faith in the judiciary had never been shaken “because I know that our hallowed courts of law will not fail to administer justice to all Nigerians in all matters and at all times.”
Tinubu said he solemnly and humbly accepted his victory with an intense sense of responsibility and a burning desire to meet the great challenges confronting Nigerians.
“We’re all members of one household, and this moment demands that we continue to work and build our country together. The strength of our diversity and the great citizenship that binds us must now compel us forward in directing the energy of our people towards building a virile, stronger, united, and more prosperous country.
“In the days and months ahead, I trust that the spirit of patriotism will be elevated into supporting our administration to improve the living conditions of Nigerians.”
The PDP said it was appalled and disappointed by the judgment.
It said the apex court had failed Nigerians as the ruling did not conform to the constitution and the Electoral Act.
PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, in a statement, said the part and “majority of Nigerians are alarmed, disappointed and gravely concerned with the reasoning of the Supreme Court which the PDP believes is against the express provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act 2022, the guideline and regulation issued by INEC under which the election was conducted.
“The PDP asserts that it’s indeed a sad commentary for our democracy that the Supreme Court failed to uphold the provisions of the law. Instead, it trashed the expectation of majority of Nigerians who looked up to it as a temple of impartiality to deliver substantial justice in the matter having regards to the laws and facts of the case.”
We’re shocked but we move on–LP
The national chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure, said: “We’re indeed very shocked and surprised that even the Apex Court will toe the line of an earlier judgement in spite of all the flaws associated with the judgement delivered by the Presidential Election Appeal Tribunal.
“Having conclusively exercised our fundamental rights as gifted to us by the laws of the land, we have no other choice but to move on. We may be disappointed and dismayed by the outcome of the exercise but we have chosen to trudge on and to remain optimistic of what the future holds for the nation.
“However, there are great lessons to be learnt. What transpired in Nigeria since the February 25 presidential election is a clear testament that our institutions are not working and that we may be sliding towards dictatorship.
“It’s very clear that the executive has hijacked both the judiciary and the legislature.”
Wait till 2031, APC tells Atiku, Obi
APC’s national chairman, Abdullahi Ganduje, said the judgement was a proof that the February 25 presidential election was not manipulated as claimed by the opposition.
Ganduje, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Edwin Olofu, asked Atiku and Obi to wait till 2031 when Tinubu would have completed his second term. Ganduje asked Atiku and Obi to join hands with Tinubu to reposition Nigeria for sustainable growth and development.”
He congratulated Atiku and Obi “on their dogged fight in extending the frontiers of our democracy and law.”
Judgement a welcome relief-Buhari
Former President Muhammadu Buhari said the judgement was a welcome relief to him and majority of the citizens.
He said the nation deserved a break after a tortuous eight months of expensive legal journey.
Buhari, in a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, urged the opposition to take the hand of fellowship extended by Tinubu’s government, having exhausted their rights as constitutionally allowed.
He said Tinubu’s victory was “a reaffirmation of the will of the majority of the people against the determined will of a hard-fighting minority. Buhari said: The opposition has fought a good fight. Having now exhausted their rights as constitutionally allowed, they should take the hand of fellowship extended by the Tinubu/Shettima APC government.
“Let them allow the government to run their administration and the people to have the benefit of the promises the All Progressives Congress, APC made.”
He expressed concern over low voting percentage all over Nigeria, especially in urban areas and said this should change given the acceptance and vibrancy of democracy in Nigeria.
Buhari wished Tinubu and his team a successful term in office.