Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi, yesterday said they would appeal the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Council (PEPC) at the Supreme Court.
Even though they affirmed confidence in the judiciary, Atiku and Obi disagreed with the judgement of the five-man PEPC panel led by Justice Simon Haruna Tsamani.
The PEPC had on Wednesday struck out the petitions filed by Atiku and Obi challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 25 election.
The tribunal held that the petitions by the candidates and their parties lacked merit.
The judgement was delivered by the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsammani, assisted by other members of the panel, namely Justices Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf, Stephen Adah, Moses Ugo, and Abba Mohammed.
But addressing a press conference at the PDP Headquarters in Abuja yesterday, Atiku said he had asked his lawyers to proceed to the Supreme Court, adding that the battle might have been lost but not the war.
He stated that the verdict of the tribunal utterly falls far short of expectation, adding that it is bereft of substantial justice.
Atiku said, “The last presidential election in our country and the way it was managed by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, leaves behind unenviable precedents, which I believe the courts have a duty to redress.
“Our gains in ensuring transparent elections through the deployment of technology was heavily compromised by INEC in the way it managed the last presidential election, and I am afraid that the judgement of the court, as rendered by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal yesterday, failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.”
He recalled mentioning that at the beginning of the legal battle when he instructed his lawyers to file a petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election, his ultimate goal in the pursuit was to ensure that democracy is further strengthened through the principles and processes of fair hearing.
He went on: “I take great pains to tell you that the decision of the court of first instance on this matter utterly falls far short of that expectation. I am therefore here to tell you that, though the judgment of the court yesterday is respected, it is a judgment that I refuse to accept. I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.
“Consequently, I have asked my lawyers to activate my constitutionally guaranteed rights of appeal to the higher court, which, in the instance, is the Supreme Court. It is my conviction that the electoral process in Nigeria should be devoid of untidy manipulations and that the outcome of every election should be a perfect reflection of the wishes of the electorate.”
According to him, that is the only way through which democracy can have a manifest expression of its true meaning.
Also at the press conference, the acting national chairman of the party, Umar Damagum said the judgement of the PEPT had left Nigerians more confused and questioning whether the Nigerian Constitution, electoral act and other laws guiding the conduct of credible elections in the country were still functional.
“A close observation from the faces of Nigerians across the country shows hopelessness and despair since the pronouncement of the judgment.
“Lawyers, politicians and other stakeholders from all divides were left confused as both law and facts were visibly thrown overboard.
“As a law-abiding political party, we receive the judgement with shock along with other Nigerians. Members should however not lose focus or be distracted,” he Damagum said.
Struggle For Justice Continues,
Says LP Candidate
On his part, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, also instructed his lawyers to immediately challenge in the appellate court the ruling of the five-member PEPC led by Justice Simon Haruna Tsamani.
Obi disclosed this at a press conference in the commercial town of Onitsha, Anambra State, yesterday in reaction to the PEPC ruling.
He, however, copiously acknowledged the court’s contributions to due process and the seeming attempt to strengthen democracy.
Obi said, “As petitioners in this case, we respect the views and rulings of the Court, but we disagree with the Court’s reasoning and conclusions in the judgement it delivered. It is my intention as a presidential candidate and the intention of the Labour Party to challenge this judgment by way of appeal immediately, as allowed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Our legal team has already received our firm instruction to file an appeal against the decision. I shall not relent in the quest for justice, not necessarily for myself but indeed for our teeming supporters all over the country and beyond whose mandate to us at the polls was regrettably truncated by INEC.”
The LP presidential candidate noted that while the PEPC has rendered its judgement, it is not the final arbiter as the responsibility now falls on the Supreme Court.
He acknowledged the fact that judgement is not coterminous with justice but he implored Nigerians to remain focused, steadfast, and peaceful; and to abide by the rule of law and understand that this matter had not reached its logical conclusion.
“The strength and value of our democracy reside in solid national institutions and our confidence in them,” Obi said, noting that Electoral litigations will be almost unnecessary and nonexistent if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) discharges its statutory functions creditably, transparently and with discernible fairness.
He stated that it is when that body fails, as it did recently, thus subverting the will of Nigerian voters that the recourse to the judiciary becomes imperative, as is now the case.
The former Anambra State governor thanked every Nigerian who has supported the cause and campaign for a New Nigeria characterised by fairness, equity, justice, the rule of law, peace, prosperity, inclusiveness, sustainable growth, and development.
Obi thanked his legal team and assured his numerous supporters across the country and beyond, the LP, the Obidient family, and all those who showed up daily during the court trials not to despair because a New Nigeria is possible and achievable.
Lawyers Differ On Judgement, Urge More Reforms
The judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC), which upheld the election of President Bola Tinubu, has continued to generate different reactions from lawyers in the country.
While some described the verdict as a true reflection of the principles of law that govern and underpin election litigations in Nigeria, others have expressed disappointment over the outcome.
The court had on Wednesday dismissed the petitions of Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, Peter Obi and the LP and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) challenging the declaration of President Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, winner of the February 25 presidential poll.
Speaking on the judgment, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) commended the diligence, undaunted thoroughness, and professionalism of the five-member bench led by Justice Haruna Tsammani in interpreting the law.
He, however, said dissatisfied parties are at liberty to proceed to the Supreme Court to test the decisions of the tribunal.
He said, “The learned justices on the tribunal’s Bench examined and resolved all the issues of law and fact in favour of the Respondents after considering the evidence and the applicable laws.
“In my view, the judgement accords with the established principles of law that govern and underpin election litigations in Nigeria. I believe that the parties will proceed to the Supreme Court to test the decisions of the Tribunal. I will encourage all the parties and their supporters to abide by the court’s decisions in this and all regards,” he stated.
In his opinion, Professor Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN) described the judgment as “a thorough examination of issues and a fair assessment of evidence, under rather tight conditions of law and thus a reasonable decision.”
On his part, Dr. Abiodun Layonu (SAN) stated that “from the judgement, it was clear that the petitions were bereft of merit, even ab initio. Undoubtedly, any appeal, which is not advised, would suffer the same fate. In short, I will say that the judgements were sound, fair, and jurisprudential”.
But in his reaction, a human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said the judgement should be a reason for “sober reflection” by all, especially for the parties in court, their lawyers, and all lovers of democracy.
Adegboruwa also called for the unbundling of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make it a more independent, non-partisan, and effective electoral umpire in the country.
He said, “In this particular case, the burden placed upon the petitioners to upturn the election was practically insurmountable. To make matters worse, INEC practically fought the petitioners to a standstill, as if it was an interested party in the whole process.
“I honestly don’t think anyone expected a different verdict from what was delivered in Abuja today, particularly the lawyers. The tension was completely unnecessary,” he stated.
On his part, the convener of Access to Justice Action Group, Joseph Otteh, described the judgment as hugely disappointing and will damage efforts to ensure that, in the future, elections in Nigeria are better conducted and produce credible and fair outcomes.
Otteh said that the five justices of the panel “buried their heads in the sand” using exponential levels of legal technicalities to defeat public expectations that it would conduct a credible interrogation of the February 25 presidential election process.
He said, “The court discountenanced substantial testimonies and evidence simply by saying they were either filed out of time or were introduced using wrong procedures,” Otteh stated.
‘Tribunal Affirmed Nigerians’ Will,’ Wike Congratulates Tinubu, Shettima
Meanwhile, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, has commended the Presidential Election Petitions Court for affirming the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the February 25, presidential poll.
Wike, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), spoke exclusively during Channels Television’s Politics Today programme yesterday, a day after the marathon ruling of the court.
“Nigerians have spoken, (and) the court has affirmed it,” Wike said.
The former governor of Rivers State hailed the five-man panel of the Tribunal led by Justice Haruna Tsamani for painstakingly delivering its judgement.
Wike said, “I didn’t expect that the election would be overturned because the President won squarely. I am happy; it’s a moment of joy. I celebrate Mr President and I congratulate him and Vice President Shettima for the victory.”
Wike, a member of the G5, an aggrieved group within the main opposition party, had publicly acknowledged that he supported Tinubu and worked against PDP’s Atiku in the last presidential poll, for which he was rewarded with an appointment as FCT minister.