Tribunal Upholds Tinubu’s Election Victory, Dismisses Petitions
By Adeke Chukwuka
The Presidential Election Petition Court validated the 2023 electoral victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidates, Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, after a 13-hour ruling.
The court deemed the petitions filed by the Labour Party, the People’s Democratic Party, and the Allied Peoples Movement unmeritorious.
Justice Haruna Tsammani, leading The Tribunal, delivered a lengthy judgement regarding multiple consolidated petitions.
Ultimately, they unanimously rejected the petitions and upheld INEC’s declaration of Tinubu as Nigeria’s duly elected president, with the announcement made at 9:55 p.m.
Before yesterday’s judgement, the country was tense due to threats of protests if there was perceived injustice in the verdict. Heavy security measures, including anti-riot police and other operatives, were put in place at the Court of Appeal in Abuja to prevent any potential law and order issues.
Truckloads of policemen arrived early in the morning, barricading the court entrance and major roads. Supporters of President Tinubu and petitioners gathered separately, expressing their views and expectations regarding the outcome.
At 9:29 a.m., the five justices entered the courtroom to deliver their verdict. They began by addressing the petition from the APM, swiftly dismissing it because it challenged the respondents’ nomination, which falls outside the election tribunal’s jurisdiction as it’s a pre-election matter.
The court pointed out that this issue should have been raised in a lower court and that it was also statute-barred.
Furthermore, it ruled that the petitioner lacked the legal standing to question another party’s nomination process, as the law does not permit political parties to challenge each other’s candidate selection.
Additionally, the court clarified that invalid or double nominations do not qualify as grounds for disqualification in presidential elections according to Sections 131 and 137 of the Constitution.
In the cases of LP and Obi, the panel ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cannot be forced to transmit election results electronically.
They cited a Federal High Court judgement on the issue that remains binding because it hasn’t been overturned. Additionally, the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC manual do not explicitly mandate electronic transmission.
The court emphasised that there is no specific provision stating that BVAS (Biometric Verification and Authentication System) should be used for result transmission. Furthermore, it was determined that the petitioner failed to demonstrate that INEC intentionally programmed the system to manipulate or rig the election.
The court ruled that the fine imposed on Tinubu by an American court in a civil forfeiture case did not disqualify him from contesting the election. According to the court, this fine did not meet the criteria for disqualification outlined in Section 137(1)(d) of the Constitution, which pertains to fines for fraud or dishonesty.
Additionally, the petitioners failed to fulfil the requirements of Section 249(1) and (2) of the Evidence Act in proving a foreign conviction. The court noted that the U.S. court case was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and even if it were criminal, Section 137(1)(e) of the Constitution specifies that such a conviction or fine must be within 10 years to disqualify a person.
The court dismissed the argument regarding the 25 percent requirement in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for winning the presidential election, stating that FCT residents do not have any special privileges as claimed by the petitioners.
Furthermore, the court rejected the forensic analyses presented by LP’s three witnesses, noting that an interested party had conducted the analyses before the petition was filed and the expert witness was a member of the petitioners’ party.
The European Union (EU) report on the polls was also rejected because it was not tendered by an official of the body.
Earlier, the court had struck out approximately 17 paragraphs from Obi and LP’s petition for being vague and generic. The court ruled that these paragraphs contained allegations of malpractice, specifying the irregularities in the election, but lacked specific details to support the claims.
The court upheld the respondents’ contention that the petitioner, Obi, alleged widespread irregularities without specifying the affected polling units. They also noted that the petitioners made generic allegations of overvoting and rigging without specifying polling units.
Furthermore, the court found that the petitioners promised evidence like spreadsheets and inspection reports but didn’t attach them to the petition. They didn’t adequately detail their allegations of corrupt practises, voter suppression, and fictitious results.
The court rejected arguments about party membership and who should be joined in the petition. They also found several parts of Abubakar’s petition lacking in the necessary details and joined parties.
Ultimately, the court dismissed all three petitions, affirming INEC’s declaration of Ahmed Bola Tinubu as the duly elected president of Nigeria. President Tinubu welcomed the verdict, emphasising his commitment to the rule of law.
Human rights lawyer Ebun Olu Adegboruwa noted that the burden on petitioners to upturn elections in Nigeria is practically insurmountable, and the verdict was expected given the challenges facing the nation’s electoral system. He suggested that reforming INEC to make it more independent and effective is necessary to ensure fair elections.
Chief Justice Oguche, a lawyer, expressed that the recent judgement raised several novel issues, including the nomination of candidates not being sufficient grounds for challenging an election.
He disagreed with the tribunal’s stance that qualification was not a matter for post-election jurisdiction. He particularly disagreed with their interpretation of the 25 percent vote in Abuja, citing Section 134 of the Constitution, and stressed the need for a liberal interpretation of constitutional provisions.
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