Atiku, Obi plan appeal as election tribunal dashes bid to sack Tinubu


Presidential Election Petitions TribunalThe presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, have rejected Wednesday’s judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal affirming the election of President Bola Tinubu.

The Legal Adviser to the Labour Party, Kehinde Edun, vowed to challenge the judgment at the Supreme Court.

Also, Atiku’s Lead Counsel, Chris Uche,  SAN, said he had received instructions from his client to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.

He said “The judgment has been delivered but we have not received justice. Luckily, the law has given us leverage to go on appeal to the Supreme Court. We have instructions from our clients to go to the Supreme Court. The struggle continues.”

The PEPT which began sitting at 9.40am at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, ruled that the petition filed by Atiku and Obi and their parties had no merit and unanimously upheld Tinubu’s electoral victory in the February 25 presidential election

The five-member panel took turns to dismiss the petitions presented by Atiku and Obi against the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission on March 1, 2023.

The judgment was delivered by the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsammani, assisted by other members of the panel-Justices Stephen Adah, Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf, Moses Ugo and Abba Mohammed.

Delivering the death knell to Atiku’s petition on Wednesday night, Tsammani stated, “This petition accordingly lacks merit. I affirm the return of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The parties are to bear their cost.”⁣

The National Legal Adviser of the LP, Edun, expressed disappointment with the judgment, stressing that the tribunal was unfair to reject 10 of their 13 witnesses, adding that the decision weakened their case.

Edun said, “We already had a premonition that this might happen. For example, where the court was saying the statements of some key witnesses should have been filed along with the petitions. How can that be? Subpoena is an order of court by which the court has compelled a witness to come and give evidence before or as of the time you are filing the petition.

‘’This is because I have not assumed jurisdiction, the tribunal has also not assumed jurisdiction.  We are just filing. It is only after filing that the court assumes jurisdiction, not before. So how can you file a witness statement at the time of filing the petition? It is when the court signs the subpoena.”

He explained, ‘’That subpoena is an invitation to the person indicating that the court has given him an order to come and give evidence. So, if the court has not ordered the person, how can he give any statement?

‘’This is why I said the judgment is so strange. And it is on the basis that they knocked out the evidence of 10 of our 13 witnesses, which inevitably weakened our case. It is a strange judgment.”

On the next point of action for the party, the legal adviser disclosed that the apex court will be the final arbiter.

“There are some filings that are unacceptable to us. So we need to see what the apex court has to say to this. We have to address this, not only for today, but for the sake of our jurisprudence. We want to see what the judges at the Supreme Court will say about all these. It is so important to do this for the sake of tomorrow.”

Delivering judgment earlier on Obi and LP’s petition marked CA/PEPC/03/2023, Tsammani said the petitioners failed to prove the allegations in their petition as required by the law and went ahead to knock off the planks of the case one after the other.

The tribunal held that although the petitioners alleged that the election was marred by irregularities, they, however, failed to give specific details of where the alleged infractions took place.

The court noted that whereas Obi and the LP insisted that the election was rigged in 18, 088 polling units across the federation, they were unable to state the locations of the said polling units.

In the verdict that was read for five hours, the tribunal further held that Obi’s allegation that fictitious results were recorded for the Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress by the Independent National Electoral Commission was not proved.

Moreso, it pointed out that the petitioners were unable to state the figures they claimed were reduced from the election results they garnered in different states of the federation, especially in Ondo, Oyo, Rivers, Yobe, Borno, Tabara, Osun and Lagos States.

It added that the petitioners equally failed to state the polling units where over-voting occurred or the exact figures of unlawful votes that were credited to Tinubu by the INEC.

It stressed that though Obi and LP said they would rely on spreadsheets as well as forensic reports and expert analysis of their expert witnesses, they failed to attach the documents to the petition or serve the same on the respondents as required by the law.

The court stated that though the petition contained serious allegations that bordered on violence, non-voting, suppression of votes, fictitious entry of election results and corrupt practices, Obi and his party, however, failed to give particulars of specific polling units where the incidents took place.

It held that several portions of the petition that contained the allegations were “vague, imprecise, nebulous and bereft of particular materials.”

Therefore, the court struck out paragraphs 9, 60, 61, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 76, 77, 78, 83 and 89 of the petition.

“They failed to state the number of votes affected and the number of people disenfranchised. The determination of the election is about figures,” Justice Mohammed declared.

He further stated, “It is unimaginable that a petitioner will allege widespread rigging in 176,000 polling units, over 8,000 wards, 774 LGAs, 36 states and FCT without stating the specific place where the alleged irregularities occur.

“The law is very clear that where someone alleged irregularities in a particular polling unit, such person must prove the particular irregularities in that polling unit for him to succeed in his petition.

“Labour Party made generic allegations of irregularities and said they would rely on spreadsheets, inspection reports, and forensic analysis but the documents promised by the petitioners were not attached to the petition.”

Obi nomination validated

Nevertheless, the court dismissed the contention of the respondents-Tinubu and the APC-that Obi was not validly nominated by the LP to contest the presidential election.

It noted that the respondents had argued that Obi left the PDP on May 24, 2022 and joined the LP on May 27, 2022.

The respondents in its petition claimed that as of May 30, 2022, Obi was not a valid member of the LP and could not have duly participated in its presidential primary election.

They insisted that his name could not have been contained in the membership register of the LP, which ought to be submitted to INEC 30 days before the primary election was held.

However, the court held that the issue of membership is an internal affair of a political party, which is not justiciable.

It maintained that only the LP has the prerogative of determining its members, adding that the respondents were bereft of the legal authority to query Obi’s membership of the LP.

Likewise, the court held that contrary to contention by Tinubu and the APC, the petitioners were not under any obligation to join Atiku who came second in the election or his party, the PDP, in the case.

It noted that both Atiku and the PDP are not statutory respondents or necessary parties to the petition.

On the alleged $460,000 forfeiture made by Tinubu to the United States Government, Justice Tsammani said, “The petitioners have evidently failed to establish their allegation that the 2nd respondent is disqualified from contesting the presidential election under section 137 (1)(d) of the 1999 constitution because he was fined $460,000 by a district court in Illinois.

“The order of forfeiture in exhibit P5 on which the petitioners have relied does not qualify as a sentence of fine for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud within the formulation of section 137 (d) of the 1999 constitution.”

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