Tension As Tinubu, Atiku, Obi Await Judgment
Information reaching Naija News House says that there is serious Tension As Tinubu, Atiku, Obi Await Judgment
After about four months of intense legal battle, the five-member panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja hearing the petitions filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Mr. Peter Obi, last Tuesday reserved judgment.
The presiding judge of the court, Justice Haruna Tsammani told the petitioners that a date for judgment would be communicated to them. The court has until September 16 to deliver the judgment, going by the statutory constitutional provision that stipulates that election petitions must be heard and determined within 180 days from the day of filing.
While Obi filed his petition on March 20, Atiku filed his on March 21, both about three weeks after Tinubu was declared winner of the February 25 presidential poll.
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on March 1, declared the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu winner of the February 25 presidential election with 8,794,726 votes while Atiku and Obi reportedly scored 6,984,520 votes and 6,101,533 votes, respectively.
Atiku and Obi had vehemently rejected the results. They later approached the court with their petitions to challenge the declaration of Tinubu winner of the election.
The two petitioners urged the court to nullify President Tinubu’s victory on the grounds that INEC failed to “substantially comply with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act” in its conduct of the polls.
They both asked the court to either declare them winner of the election or order a rerun.
Lead counsel to Atiku, Chris Uche (SAN) informed the court that there is no dispute that INEC reserves the discretion to adopt the technology for the conduct of the election, which it chose Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the Result viewing portal (IReV), which formed part of the new regime of election management in the country to enhance the transparency of collation. He said the substantiality of the non-compliance was nationwide, and not just a polling unit.
“The burden in the new regime, because INEC was empowered and we gave evidence that it was N355 billion, so it is left for INEC to explain to Nigerians; it was not a technical glitch, it was deliberate for the manipulation of the election,” he said.
Counsel to the LP, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) submitted that an election in which 18,088 polling units’ results were blurred is a very flawed election. Of the result sheets certified by INEC for the petitioners, he said, “8,123 were blurred, some with pictures and pictures certified by them, and how can they say they conducted an election so far?
“Any certified true copy of any document must be an exact replica, that explains why INEC couldn’t produce the originals of the result sheets because it couldn’t have been any other thing than blank sheets,” he said.
Petitioners Couldn’t Prove Claim on Electronic Collation of Results, Says INEC
Atiku and Obi had contended that the failure to transmit results of the presidential election to IREV directly from polling units and simultaneously with the National Assembly elections constituted substantial non-compliance to the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines as well as created the avenue for the manipulation of the results.
But in their address, the counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) submitted that the petitioners contrived in their minds that there was a provision for electronic transmission, which doesn’t exist but only manual transmission. He added that their evidence failed to prove how the non-compliance affected the results of the election.
The INEC counsel argued that the glitch suffered in the INEC application on Amazon Web Services (AWS) was not unusual for such a new technology and was not a result of human interference. He said the 18,088 blurred results by the LP were merely for dramatisation purposes and did not impact the actual results.
He said agreeing with the argument on the requirement of a 25 per cent score in the FCT would impose special status on a territory of the country, which would be absurd.
Tinubu: Sustain My Victory; I Scored 25% in Above Half of FCT
Atiku and Obi had contended that the provision in Section 134(2) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that a candidate must score at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, which only Obi polled.
At the hearing, President Tinubu told the court that he scored 25 per cent of the votes in more than half of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
His submission was made by his counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) while adopting his objections and final written address against Atiku’s petition. He said the recurring word under Section 134 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999, is “votes”, adding that a similar interpretation was also applied in Shagari vs Awolowo in 1979, maintaining that Tinubu’s total votes reflects 25 per cent of the two-thirds of the votes cast in the FCT.
Olanipekun said for the purposes of the election, the FCT is regarded as the 37th state of the federation. He added that Atiku failed to show the results, which ought to be declared in his favour, adding that the court cannot grant what was not requested by “meddlesome interlopers.”
The senior lawyer argued that uploads are not part of the collation process as they are done physically. He added that the judgments of the Federal High Court in Abuja and the Court of Appeal in Lagos have ruled that INEC has the discretion to choose how to collate the results of an election, adding that the judgment is binding on all parties.
Also submitting, counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) said LP failed to prove non-transmission of results from polling unit by polling unit. He said in the event of a rerun, it will be between APC and PDP.
“This is why I say that the petition is ambitious; and if they say they are meddlesome interlopers, it is also correct,” he said.
He said the judgment of the US court was not a criminal forfeiture, adding that there was no defendant and accused.
On dual citizenship, Tinubu said he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth as provided under Section 137(1) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999.
“And on the petitioner’s summary of the evidence, we observe a lack of fidelity to the actual records, which bind parties and the court, all in an apparent attempt to augment evidential paucity and deficit”.
On the $460,000 forfeiture, Olanipekun said Section 137(1)(d) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that Tinubu is not under any fine as provided in the section.
On Obi’s prayer for a rerun should the court decline to declare him president, Olanipekun argued that the LP flagbearer should not be allowed to participate in the process because he came third in the race. He said the law only provides for Atiku who came second in the contest to participate in a rerun should the court decide so.
“Assuming without conceding, even if there is going to be a rerun, Obi will not be qualified to run. May I therefore urge my Lordships to dismiss this petition. It is an expedition,” Olanipekun said.
On his part, APC’s lawyer, Fagbemi adopted the closing arguments of Mahmoud and Olanipekun in the suit. He said Obi failed to prove polling unit by polling unit INEC’s failure to transmit polling units results electronically.
“The issue of rerun is a two-horse race between the two leading contenders,” referring to Tinubu and Atiku, urging the court to dismiss the petition.
Many are wondering whether with the request, President Tinubu and his party, the APC, were already jittery that they have a very bad case.