The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) has affirmed the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The court yesterday dismissed the petitions of Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party and his party and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Justice Haruna Tasmani, in his judgement which lasted over 12 hours, said that the petitioner’s failed to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt.
Atiku and PDP had premised their joint petition on alleged irregularities, corrupt practices and substantial non-compliance with the electoral laws.
In addition, they submitted that Tinubu was not qualified to participate in the poll on the grounds of alleged offences bordering on the forfeiture of $460,000 in the US, forgery, and dual citizenship amongst others.
In the lead judgement delivered by the Justice Tsammani, the court stated that for any election to be nullified, there must be proof of substantial non-compliance, corrupt practices and other irregularities.
The tribunal observed that while the petitioners failed to give particulars of malpractices in their petitions, the evidence of the few witnesses called could not be relied upon as they had not witnessed the alleged acts of irregularities or corrupt practices.
LEADERSHIP recalls that Atiku had called only 27 witnesses to prove his allegations of irregularities and corrupt practices amongst others.
It was the position of the court that the 27 witnesses called were inadequate considering the fact that elections took place in over 176,000 polling units across the country, to which the petitioners claimed their agents monitored.
The tribunal observed that rather than call these polling unit agents who witnessed the alleged irregularities and corrupt practices, the petitioners called collation agents whose evidence were at best “hearsay”.
On the issue of electronic transmission of results, the panel reiterated its earlier position that the Electoral Act did not make provisions for electronic transmission of election results, adding that IReV is not a part of the collation process.
On the issue of qualification, the court held that the petitioners did not plead facts in the qualification and disqualification of Tinubu, hence the issue was discountenanced by the court.
Earlier, the tribunal, in a ruling, struck out several paragraphs relied upon by Atiku and PDP in seeking the nullification of Tinubu’s election.
Besides, several exhibits, including witnesses statements tendered to establish allegations of irregularities and malpractices in the February 25 presidential election were rejected and discountenanced by the tribunal.
It was the position of the court that several facts fundamentally required to support the petition were not provided by Atiku.
Among others, Atiku was said to have failed and neglected to name places where ballot boxes were snatched, the ways and manners the BVAS machine were manipulated and names of polling booths where the alleged malpractices took place.
The petitioner, who claimed to have polled the majority of lawful votes, was said to have failed to state in clear terms the total lawful votes he claimed to have scored.
The court held that Atiku alleged that Tinubu did not score the majority of lawful votes but failed to state the perceived lawful votes in his petition to the court.
Similarly, the tribunal said that the former vice president made grievous allegations against Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, and the chairman of Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi, Friday Adejoh, but neglected to join them as respondents in the petition.
It was the position of the tribunal that failure to join the governor, who was accused of electoral fraud, was fatal to the petition because the governor was denied an opportunity to defend himself as required by law.
The court dismissed the allegations of over voting all over Nigeria by the petitioner, adding that such pleadings run foul of the law because the specific places where the alleged over- voting took place were not mentioned before the court.
Obi’s Evidence Rejected
Also, the court rejected the evidence and exhibits tendered by 10 out of the 13 witnesses presented by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi.
Justice Tsammani said the witness statements on oath of the 10 witnesses, who were subpoenaed to testify in the case, were not competent and could not be recognised by the court.
He said it was because they were not filed along with the petition as of the close of the 21 days within which the petitioners must file their case.
Justice Tsammani, who was ruling on the objection of Mr Tinubu and other respondents to the petition, held that the witness statements on oath of the witnesses, having been declared incompetent, the 10 witnesses were also not competent to testify in the case.
“They are therefore not the witnesses of this court,” Mr Tsammani ruled.
According to him, the petitioners were aware of the legal provision relating to the filing of witness statements on oath, yet they went ahead to present 10 witnesses without their witness statements on oath earlier filed with the petition.
The court said under section 285 of the Nigerian constitution, section 137(7) of the Electoral Act 2022, and other provisions, every witness statement on oath must be filed along with the petition.
He said that based on the Supreme Court’s authority, once the 21-day window for filing an election petition lapses, the content of the petition cannot be amended.
On Dual Citizenship
Justice Stephen Adah, who took over from Justice Tsammani, after a review of the evidence and documents tendered, struck out the evidence of some of Atiku’s witnesses on dual citizenship on the grounds that their witness statements on oath were not filed along with his petition. The court also expunged 37 exhibits tendered by the witnesses from the court’s records.
Peter Obi’s Eligibility
The court dismissed President Tinubu and his Vice President Kashim Shettima’s petition challenging eligibility of Peter Obi as candidate of the Labour Party (LP).
Obi was a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before he joined Labour Party for the February 25 presidential election.
The court held that it was not within the rights of Tinubu and Shettima to challenge Obi’s candidacy.
“The issue of membership of a political party is an internal party affair,” Justice Abba Mohammed said.
The tribunal also dismissed the objection raised by the respondents contending that Obi and LP failed to join Atiku Abubakar as a respondent in their petition.
On the issue of $460,000.00 forfeiture, the court said President Tinubu cannot be disqualified on the account of the fine imposed on him by a United States court.
According to the court, what was handed to Tinibu in the US was a civil forfeiture proceeding.
Justice Tsamani said President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettma were qualified to contest the last presidential election.
The court held that the fine imposed by the US court did not qualify as a fine for fraud or dishonesty provided in Section 137(1)(d) of the Constitution.
It added that the petitioners evidently failed to prove their case that Tinubu was disqualified by virtue of the decision of the US court, adding that Obi and the LP did not comply with the requirement of Section 249(1) and (2) of the Evidence Act in proving conviction outside the country.
It held that the US court case was in respect of a civil case, not a criminal case, adding even if it was to be a criminal case, in Section 137(1)(e) of the Constitution, such conviction or fine must be within 10 years for the person to be disqualified.
Also, yesterday, the court described as incompetent the petition filed by the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, against the declaration of President Tinibu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The party had asked the court to nullify President Bola Tinubu’s election.
The court held that issues the APM raised in its petition contained pre-election matters that could only be determined by the Federal High Court.
The chairman of the tribunal, Justice Tsammani, who read the ruling, upheld the preliminary objections to all the respondents raised to challenge the competence of the petition.
The court held that since the petition centred on the qualification or otherwise of President Tinubu to contest the presidential election, the APM ought to have gone to court within 14 days after Tinubu was nominated by the All Progressives Congress, APC.
He held that since the cause of action bordered on a pre-election matter, the APM lacked the locus standi to challenge Tinubu’s nomination.
More so, Justice Tsammani held that the Supreme Court had earlier decided that a political party does not have the right to challenge a nomination that was made by another political party.
He held that section 131 and 237 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, made provisions for the qualification or disqualification of candidates in an election.
The court noted that the main grouse of the APM was on the alleged invalid nomination of Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim Shettima.
“It is clear that the claim of qualification or non-qualification of the 3rd Respondent (Tinubu) centred on alleged invalid nomination of the 4th Respondent (Shettima).
He held that section 84(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, stipulated that political parties should not impose qualification criteria on a candidate, except as provided for in the constitution.
According to the court, sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 185 and 187 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, settled the issue of qualification and nomination of a candidate for an election.
It held that where an election had already been conducted and the result declared, the qualification of a candidate could no longer be challenged on the basis of sections 131 and 137 of the Constitution.
The court held that since the APM failed to challenge President Tinubu’s nomination within the constitutionally allowed period, its case, therefore, had become statute barred.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party (LP) has rejected the judgement delivered by the election petition Tribunal.
The LP went to the tribunal, praying amongst other things, that the tribunal should declare the party and their candidate Peter Obi the winner of the 2023 Presidential Election, insisting that they won more states than the 12 declared by INEC.
A statement issued by the national publicity secretary, Obiora Iffoh, said it watched with dismay and trepidation the dismissal of petitions by the five-man panel led by Justice Tsammani.
“And we reject the outcome of the judgment in its entirety because justice was not served and it did not reflect the law and the desire of the people.
Meanwhile, PDP has rejected the judgement of the Presidential Election
Petition Tribunal which nullified the petitions of its candidate Atiku Abubakar against the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The PDP, in a statement issued by its spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, said as a party, it had an initial review of the judgment as delivered by the PEPC and unequivocally rejected the said judgement in its entirety.
It said “the judgement is against reason, against the facts and evidence presented in Court; against the relevant Electoral Laws, Guidelines and Regulations as well as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“Indeed, the Judgment is generous in technicalities and very short in delivering substantial justice in the matter.”
Tinubu Embraces Tribunal Verdict, Calls For Unity In Nation Building
In his reaction to the judgement, President Tinubu assured Nigerians of his renewed and energized focus on delivering his vision of a unified, peaceful and prosperous nation, following the judgment by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja.
In a statement by presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, the president welcomed the judgment of the Tribunal with an intense sense of solemn responsibility and preparedness to serve all Nigerians, irrespective of all diverse political persuasions, faiths, and tribal identities.
He recognised the diligence, undaunted thoroughness, and professionalism of the five-member bench, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani in interpreting the law.
The president affirmed that his commitment to the rule of law, and the unhindered discharge of duties by the Tribunal, as witnessed in the panel’s exclusive respect for the merits of the petitions brought forward, further reflects the continuing maturation of Nigeria’s legal system, and the advancement of Africa’s largest democracy at a time when our democratic system of government is under test in other parts of the continentDemocracy, The People Have Won, Says Buhari
In his reaction, immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his happiness with the ruling of the court affirming the victory of the APC, Tinubu and his running mate Kashim Shettima in the February 25 election.
Buhari in a statement by his media aide Garba Shehu said the PEPC has “written history” by spurning intimidation and all manner of prejudice to deliver justice according law to a majority of citizens whose wish is that the choices they made are respected.
“If anybody has won today it is the democracy and the people,” adding “with the verdict of the appellate court, the election period is over and it is time to put the heat and dust behind us.
“From here, the new APC administration led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu should get the support of everyone in order to deliver the promises it made to the people.”
The former president also voiced his appreciation to all citizens for maintaining peace throughout this period and prayed for continued progress and development under the APC government.
The national chairman of the APC Abdullahi Umar Ganduje commended the court on its validation of Tinubu’s victory.
The former Kano State governor called on the opposition parties to accept the outcome of the tribunal verdict in good faith, saying it was in tandem with the tenets of democracy and the rule of law.
In a statement he personally signed, Ganduje described the judgement as thorough, having addressed all the issues raised by the petitioners.
Accordingly, he urged the PDP and LP to cooperate with the present administration in its efforts to address the challenges facing the country.
Also, Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Sule described the judgment of the tribunal as a victory for the people.
Speaking during the distribution of palliatives to vulnerable people at the palace of the Esu Karu, in Karu local government area of the state, HRH Pharmacist Luka Panya Baba, Governor Sule who is also the Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) North Central Governors Forum said the judgment was a testimony of the triumph of President Tinubu during the last presidential election.
The governor congratulated the President, his vice, Kashim Shettima, the leadership of the ruling party and all Nigerians over the verdict, while urging the petitioners to join hands with the president in steering the country on the path of development and growth.
“Let me use the opportunity to congratulate His Excellency, congratulate our party, congratulate INEC and congratulate Nigerians because the judgment is a victory for all Nigerians, for the peace of Nigeria. It’s an opportunity for all to come and work together for the progress of this country,” he said.
His Lagos State counterpart, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu congratulated Tinubu on the well-deserved victory at the tribunal.
Reacting to the court verdict, Governor Sanwo-Olu said the APC members across Nigeria and the President, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, worked very hard for the victory enjoyed at the February 25th presidential election, noting that the Presidential Election Petition Court’s decision, which was in favour of the President is comforting and also an affirmation of the will of over eight million Nigerians who filed out to cast their ballots for the APC and President Bola Tinubu as their choice.
Governor Sanwo-Olu in a statement issued on Wednesday by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, said Nigerians had spoken through the ballots and the Court has also validated the citizens’ decision by today’s judicial pronouncements, which upheld the victory of President Tinubu during the 2023 presidential poll.
The governor said millions of Nigerians were not in doubt as regards the mandate freely given to President Tinubu to steer the ship of Nigeria for four years based on his track records and laudable achievements as two-term Governor of Lagos State.
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Barau I. Jibrin, has hailed the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), affirming the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Senator Barau, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Publicity, Ismail Mudashir, said the judgement of the tribunal has reaffirmed the choice of Nigerians on President Tinubu.
The five-member tribunal chaired by Justice Haruna Tsammani had on Wednesday upheld the election of President Tinubu.
While urging all to accept the outcome of the tribunal, he said Nigerians irrespective of party differences need to team up with the present administration to address the challenges facing the country.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, has congratulated President Bola Tinubu on his victory at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
Abbas said the dismissal of the petitions against Tinubu’s victory in the February 25, 2023 presidential election has only added more legitimacy and credibility to his government and administration.
The speaker noted that while the petitioners have duly exercised their rights by approaching the tribunal to table their grievances, the court has also duly weighed the arguments and evidence presented before it before arriving at the judgment.
The judiciary, the Speaker added, has lived up to its name as the true arbiter in any case, based on the way it adjudicated on the presidential election petitions before it.
LP Rejects Judgement, To Consult Lawyers On Way Forward
Congratulate Tinubu, SDP Presidential Candidate Tells Atiku, Obi
The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2023 Presidential election, Prince Adewole Adebayo, has called on former vice President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and his counterpart in the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi to congratulate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stating that the verdict reflect justice.
Adebayo described the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) as “sound in fact and law, in substance, procedures, and conform to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act 2022 as amended and established precedent.”
While urging Atiku and Obi to congratulate President Tinubu, Adebayo said they can still contest the election in 2027.
Protesters Storm Tribunal Venue For Tinubu
Members of the Coalition of Good Governance and Change Initiative (CGGCI) have implored presidential candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and that of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, to withdraw their litigations against President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and join him in the ongoing bid to rebuild Nigeria.
The CGGCI members who thronged the Court of Appeal, venue of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT), on a solidarity walk on Wednesday in Abuja, noted that within hundred days in office, Tinubu has been able to diversify the Nigerian economy by recreating federal ministries and assigning them appropriately.
The protester who carried various placards with pro-Tinubu inscriptions said President Tinubu has taken many other steps in nation building which are already yielding fruitful results.
Addressing journalists during the peaceful walk, national coordinator of the coalition, Comrade Okpokwu Ogenyi, appealed to both Atiku of PDP and Obi of LP to accept the outcome of the tribunal, noting that it is a great indication that the world has agreed with the mandate of the Nigerian people that Tinubu still remains the choice of the people.
Ogenyi stated: “They are Nigerians. But we, Nigerians, rejected them with the mandate to lead us through the ballot. They should accept the verdict of the Court and move on with the President.
“The president is a welcoming president as you can see from Chief Olabode George who was called out for criticising the president. Chief George said before the general elections that if Bola Tinubu becomes the president he will relocate to Ghana. Today, he is still in Nigeria enjoying the dividends of democracy under the same President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Kaduna CAN Caution Nigerians Against Lawlessness
The Kaduna State chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev John Joseph Hayab, has called on Nigerians to allow the rule of law to take its course in the judgment of the presidential election petition tribunal for the overall peace and unity of the country.
Hayab made the call yesterday in a statement he made available to journalists in Kaduna.
“As Nigerians, respect the judicial system for the interest of peace and harmonious coexistence of the country. Nigerians must not allow themselves to be used to divide the country based on political differences, but unite and work with the person the court rules in his favor to lead the affairs of the land for development to thrive in Nigeria”.
“Politicians come and go but the country remains. Therefore, we must think inward and not allow some selfish individuals to put the country into confusion that could lead to chaos that can result in a loss of lives and destruction of property, which could set the country backward instead of consolidating Nigeria’s progress.”
Rev Hayab urged politicians and Nigerians to accept the judgment of the tribunal, especially those the judgment did not go according to their expectations, he said.