PEPT: Reasons for Failure of Atiku, Obi, and APM’s Petitions Against Tinubu Revealed by Tribunal

The verdict of the Presidential Election Petitions Court on the February 25, 2023 presidential poll was delivered on Wednesday after a 12-hour marathon session. The court dismissed the consolidated petitions of three parties: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar; the Allied Peoples Movement (APM); and the Labour Party (LP) and its candidate, Peter Obi. The court upheld the election of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the valid winner of the poll.

The five-member panel, headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, ruled that the petitions lacked merit and competence, and affirmed Tinubu’s return as the duly elected President of Nigeria. Justice Tsammani said, “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 judgment was delivered at the Court of Appeal in Abuja and was broadcast live on television from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Among the dignitaries present at the court were Vice-President Kashim Shettima of the APC, Chief of Staff Femi Gbajabiamila, and LP’s Julius Abure. Notably absent were Obi and Atiku, who had attended previous sessions of the court, as well as Tinubu, who was in India for the G-20 summit.

The court first ruled on the petition of the APM, followed by the LP and the PDP.

The APM’s petition against Tinubu’s election was dismissed by the Tribunal, which ruled that the party had no standing to challenge his nomination by the APC. The court said the petition was a pre-election matter that should have been filed within 14 days of Tinubu’s nomination. It also said the Supreme Court had already established that a party cannot question the nomination of another party’s candidate.

The Tribunal also rejected the LP’s petition, which sought to nullify Tinubu’s victory on the grounds of irregularities in the transmission of election results. The court said INEC had the discretion to determine how to transmit results under the Electoral Act 2022. It said the LP’s petition was generic and failed to prove any specific wrongdoing by INEC or Tinubu.

The Tribunal also dismissed Obi and LP’s petitions on 25 per cent votes of Tinubu in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), saying that Abuja is like other states.

The court said the Electoral Act 2022 made no provision for electronic transmission of election results.

The five-man panel said the only technological device that was mandatory for INEC to use for the election was the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

Still, on the issue of non-compliance with the Electoral Act and INEC Regulations and Guidelines, Justice Tsammani said there is nothing in the regulation to show that the BVAS must electronically transmit polling units’ results.

The Tribunal also held that the commission’s Results Viewing Portal (IReV) is not a collation system and the judgment in the case of Oyetola vs. INEC clearly supports this.

“There is no provision for the electronic transmission of election results in the Electoral Act 2022,” says Justice Tsammani. “It is at best optional.”

Furthermore, the Tribunal ruled that the Labour Party and Obi failed to establish that INEC deliberately refused to promptly upload polling unit results to its Results Viewing Portal (IReV) in order to manipulate the results in favour of Tinubu of APC.

“The petitioner made the allegation of non-compliance a substantial part of their case. By the provisions of Section 135(2) of the Electoral Act, they are required to show how such non-compliance substantially affected them. If they fail to show same, the petition fails.”

The petitioner also made allegations of suppression of results, overvoting, and inflation of votes when they said that from the totality of the evidence, the elections are invalid by reason of corrupt practices.

The Tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the Labour Party Obi and its presidential candidate, challenging the eligibility of Tinubu, the APC candidate, to contest the 2023 presidential election. The petitioners had alleged that Tinubu was involved in money laundering and drug trafficking in the United States and had forfeited $460,000 to the US authorities over 30 years ago. They also claimed that Tinubu possessed dual citizenship of Nigeria and the United States, which disqualified him from running for the presidency.

However, the Tribunal found no evidence to support these allegations and held that Tinubu was not convicted of any crime or subjected to any criminal trial in the US. The Tribunal also held that the forfeiture of $460,000 was not a criminal matter and did not amount to a conviction or sentence. The Tribunal further held that Tinubu did not have dual citizenship and was a Nigerian citizen by birth. The Tribunal therefore ruled that Tinubu met the constitutional requirements to contest the presidential election.

The Tribunal also struck out some parts of the petition filed by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku, who had joined Obi and the LP in challenging Tinubu’s eligibility. The Tribunal struck out the evidence of some witnesses who did not file their witness statements on oath along with the petition.

The Tribunal also expunged 37 exhibits tendered by the witnesses from the court’s records. The Tribunal however admitted some documents that were alleged to have been dumped on the court, but said it would accord them less weight.

According to the tribunal, the petitioner’s witnesses failed to prove the allegations of electronic transmission failure. Out of the 27 witnesses called by the petitioner, 10 were polling unit agents who gave evidence on how the elections were conducted in their different polling units.

They all agreed that the voting process was smooth and peaceful in their respective polling units, but they claimed that they were unable to upload the results electronically to the portal of INEC. They said they resorted to manual entry and submission of the results to the ward and or state collation centre.

The witnesses confirmed that the results were signed by party agents and that the only problem was the electronic transmission.

The Tribunal emphasized that litigation is based on pleadings and that parties are bound by their pleadings.

The petitioner also alleged that the respondents’ agents disrupted the elections, but failed to produce any video evidence to support this claim.

The second issue was about the 25 percent in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the court simply adopted its previous decision on this matter.

The third issue was about the qualification of Tinubu due to an alleged indictment, but the petitioner did not present any credible evidence to prove this.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party rejected the judgments of the Tribunal.

The LP’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, issued a statement after the verdict of the Tribunal on Wednesday, saying that justice was not done in the petitions of the party against the APC and Tinubu.

He said the Labour Party will consult with its lawyers and decide on its next step after receiving the Certified True Copy of the judgments.

The party said the judgment of the court “did not reflect the law and the desire of the people”.

“Nigerians were witnesses to the electoral robbery that took place on February 25, 2023, which was globally condemned but the Tribunal in its wisdom refused to accept the obvious,” the statement partly read.

“What is at stake is democracy and we will not relent until the people will prevail.

“We salute the doggedness of our team of lawyers who fearlessly exposed the wrath in our system. We can only weep for democracy in Nigeria but we refuse to give up on Nigeria.

“Details of the party’s position will be presented after consultation with our lawyers after the Certified True Copy of the judgment is made available to us.”

Reacting to the judgement, Tinubu, on Wednesday night welcomed the Tribunal’s verdict affirming his election and called on Atiku and Obi to join hands with his government.

“The President believes the Presidential Candidates and Political Parties that have lawfully exercised their rights by participating in the 2023 general elections and the judicial process, which followed, have affirmed Nigeria’s democratic credentials,” said presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, in a statement.

“The President urges his valiant challengers to inspire their supporters in the trust that the spirit of patriotism will now and forever be elevated above partisan considerations, manifesting into support for our Government to improve the livelihood of all Nigerians.”