Presidential Election: Atiku and Obi Oppose Abuja as 37th State, Present Case to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court yesterday received separate appeals from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, President Bola Tinubu, and the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.

They both challenged the ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), which upheld the victory of Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 25 presidential election.

The appellants claimed that Tinubu did not meet the constitutional requirement of securing at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. They also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of failing to transmit the election results electronically to its portal as stipulated by its guidelines.

Furthermore, they alleged that the PEPC ignored their evidence of irregularities and violations of the constitution and electoral act in the conduct of the election.

Atiku, who was represented by a team of 67 lawyers, including 18 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, filed 35 grounds of appeal. Obi, who was represented by another team of lawyers led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, filed 51 grounds of appeal.

They both asked the apex court to nullify Tinubu’s election and order a fresh poll or declare them as the winners of the election.

The former Vice President argued that the PEPC panel made a legal mistake, when it did not cancel the presidential election because of non-adherence to the Electoral Act, 2022, even though evidence that was presented to it showed that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, violated existing laws and rules that regulate the conduct of elections.

He blamed the PEPC of reaching its unanimous decision based on incorrect and misleading interpretation of provisions of both the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act, 2022.

His words: “The lower court erred in law when it refused to uphold the mandatoriness of electronic transmission of results for confirmation and verification of final results introduced by the Electoral Act 2022 for transparency and integrity of results in accordance with the principles of the Act.”

He claimed that the law and the rules of the electoral body, which he presented as evidence, required the use of electronic devices to send the results of the election from the voting places to the electoral body’s system for checking, validating and combining the results before announcing them.

He said that some of the officials who used the BVAS devices at the voting places on the day of the election, testified before the tribunal that they did not send the results of the presidential election electronically from the devices, but they sent the results of the National Assemply election that happened at the same time without any problem.

“The bypass of the use of the prescribed verification technology was nationwide, affecting the entire polling units and collation of results all over Nigeria, and substantially affected the outcome of the election,” Atiku added.

He also said that INEC’s only witness, Lawrence Bayode, confessed that the Commission faced a technical problem that caused the system to malfunction on the election day, “which technical glitch was not explained by the 1st Respondent.”

In addition, he argued that based on Section 169(1) of the Constitution and Section 148 of the Electoral Act, the INEC regulations and guidelines had legal force, being a direct result of the Constitution itself, thus, qualifying as a secondary legislation.

Atiku told the Supreme Court that the non-compliance with the Electoral Act was nationwide, affecting 176, 846 polling units in the country, a situation he said significantly influenced the outcome of the election.

“The case of the Appellants was that under the new legal regime of technology-based collation of results under the Electoral Act 2022, the Appellants, by credible evidence, established deliberate non-compliance by the 1st Respondent with the electronic transmission of election result which was nationwide.”

He said the outcome of the election ought to have been canceled “based on the doctrine of legitimate expectation.”

Atiku claimed that the constitutional requirement of getting one-quarter of the votes in two-thirds of the states and the FCT, Abuja, was an extra and compulsory requirement to the provisions concerning the highest lawful votes and thus a prerequisite to a declaration by INEC.

“The said FCT, Abuja, cannot be construed as the 37th state of Nigeria as done by the lower court in the light of the clear provisions of section 2(2) & section 3(1) of the 1999 Constitution.

“The lower court failed in its duty to interpret the material word ‘AND’ in the said sub-section.

“The provision of Section 134(2) (b) of the Constitution is clear on the requirement that a presidential candidate must score at least 25% of the total votes in the FCT, Abuja.

“There is no ambiguity or absurdity in the provision of Section 134 (2) (b) of the Constitution to warrant a resort to any other interpretation other than the literal rule as the lower court erroneously did,” Atiku further stated in the appeal he filed alongside his party, PDP.

The Appellants sought the intervention of the apex court to overturn the verdict of the PEPC and grant them either their primary or alternative demands.

He requested the Supreme Court to, among other things, rule that Tinubu did not win by a majority of valid votes cast in the election and also state that he was not eligible to be declared the winner.