The final legal battle over the outcome of the February 25, 2023 presidential election has begun, with the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi, asking the Supreme Court to nullify the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC).
The lower court had upheld the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the election.
Tinubu was declared winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Atiku, in a notice of appeal predicated on 35 grounds, insisted that the PEPC committed grave error and miscarriage of justice in its findings and conclusion in the petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as president.
Similarly, Obi and LP’s team of lawyers led by Dr Livy Uzokwu (SAN) beat the deadline for the filing of the appeal, as they approached the apex court with 51 grounds, which they termed ‘an error in law’, to prove that Tinubu did not win the election.
They argued that it was wrong for both INEC and the PEPC to declare Tinubu winner of the election when many incontrovertible points were proving otherwise.
In his notice of appeal filed by his lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), Atiku is praying the Supreme Court to set aside the whole findings and conclusions of the lower court on grounds that they did not represent the true picture of the grounds of his petition.
Among others, the former vice president maintained that the tribunal erred in law when it failed to nullify the presidential election held on February 25, 2023 on grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, when by evidence before the tribunal, INEC conducted the election based on grave and gross misrepresentation contrary to the principles of the Electoral Act 2022, based on the “doctrine of legitimate expectation.”
In their reliefs, Obi and the party sought from the apex court four key points, including allowing the appeal, setting aside the perverse judgment of the PEPC, and granting the reliefs sought in the petition, either in the main or in the alternative.
On the issue of the 25 percent requirement for Abuja, Obi and the LP listed the particulars of error by the PEPC as follows: “That the PEPC failed to appreciate that for the president to assume the office or position of the governor of Abuja, is also under a mandate to secure 25 percent of the votes cast in the FCT”.
They also accused the PEPC of overlooking the fuller purport of section 299 which will be more glaring on a calm examination of section 301 of the constitution. No date yet has been fixed for the hearing of the case.
Obi, in his appeal, maintained that the PEPC erred in law and thereby reached a wrong conclusion when it dismissed the petition, he lodged to challenge the outcome of the presidential poll that was held on February 25.
Among other things, he contended that the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel of the Court of Appeal wrongly occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice against him, when it held that he did not specify polling units where irregularities occurred during the election.
He further faulted the PEPC for dismissing his case on the premise that he did not specify the figures of votes or scores that were allegedly suppressed of inflated in favour of President Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Obi equally accused the Justice Tsammani-led panel of erring in law when it relied on paragraph 4(1) (d) (2) and 54 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 to strike out paragraphs of his petition.
While accusing the lower court of breaching his right to fair hearing, Obi insisted that evidence of his witnesses were wrongly dismissed as incompetent.
He told the apex court that the panel unjustly dismissed his allegation that the INEC uploaded 18, 088 blurred results on its IReV portal.
More so, he alleged that the lower court ignored his allegation that certified true copies of documents that INEC issued to his legal team, comprised of 8, 123 blurred results that contained blank A4 papers, pictures and images of unknown persons, purporting same to be the CTC of polling units’ results of the presidential election.
“The learned justices of the court below erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when they held and concluded that he failed to establish the allegation of corrupt practices and over-voting,” Obi added.
On his part, Atiku is praying the Supreme Court to declare him the authentic winner of the February 25 presidential election based on lawful votes cast by Nigerians during the poll.
He said, in the alternative, the apex court should order a rerun election to be conducted for him and Tinubu being the 1st and 2nd runners up in the last presidential election.
While challenging the entire judgment of the tribunal, Atiku claimed that the lower court erred in law when it failed to determine his case with respect to the mandatory verification and confirmation required before the announcement of the results of the presidential election, pursuant to Section 64(4) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He averred that all the Collation Officers, Returning Officers and INEC Chairman are under a statutory obligation to confirm and verify that the results being collated is consistent with the results directly transmitted from the polling units before making final announcement on the general elections.
Faulting the entire decision further, the appellant in ground eight claimed that the lower court erred in law when in its interpretation of Section 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution held that Tinubu does not need to score 25% of lawful votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to Atiku, the issue submitted to the tribunal called for the interpretation of the material word “and” in the said Section 134(2), adding that the provisions of the Section are clear and unambiguous.
Atiku contended that the tribunal made grave error and miscarriage of justice in striking out the witness statement on oath and the entire evidence of his subpoenaed witnesses on the erroneous grounds that the said statements were not filed along with the petition.
According to him, the subpoenaed witnesses were essentially persons whose witness statement on oath could not practically be ready and available at the time of preparing and filing of his petition.
On September 6, the PEPC gave legal backing to the electoral victory of Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, in the 2023 presidential poll.
The panel described the petition filed by Atiku, Obi as well as the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), against the electoral victory as unmeritorious.
The tribunal headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, in a marathon judgment on various aspects of the consolidated petitions filed by the petitioners, unanimously dismissed the petitions.