Abuja — With the intention of overturning President Bola Tinubu’s election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP’s candidate, and Mr. Peter Obi, the LP’s candidate, filed separate challenges with the Supreme Court yesterday.
The judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), which declared All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Tinubu the victor of the February 25 presidential election, was upheld by the governing court in an appeal filed by the two contenders.
They specifically contended that Tinubu did not receive at least 25% of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, or FCT, Abuja, and that the Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, erred in its ruling because it purposefully abstained from sending the poll results electronically to its portal in compliance with its regulations.
They further contended that, despite overwhelming evidence, the PEPC ignored their allegations of poll manipulation, which they said were carried out in violation of the electoral act and the constitution.
While Atiku filed 35 grounds of appeal to contest Tinubu’s victory through his alliance of 67 attorneys, which included 18 Senior Advocates of Nigeria under the direction of Chief Chris Uche, SAN, Obi filed 51 grounds of appeal before the highest court with his own legal team under the direction of Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN.
PEPC verdict: a serious injustice, according to Atiku
The five-member Court of Appeal panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani rejected Atiku’s petition challenging the results of the presidential election on September 6. Atiku contended in his appeal that the panel’s decision was not only “against the weight of evidence,” but also constituted a serious injustice against him.
The former vice president insisted that the PEPC panel committed a legal error when it declined to declare the presidential election invalid due to non-compliance with the Electoral Act of 2022, despite evidence being presented to the panel that indicated the INEC had broken existing laws and regulations governing election administration.
He charged the PEPC with making a unanimous ruling by willfully misinterpreting and distorting the text of the Electoral Act of 2022 and the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
In line with the Act’s principles of transparency and integrity of results, the lower court committed a legal error when it declined to uphold the requirement for electronic transmission of results for confirmation and verification of final results, as introduced by the Electoral Act 2022.
intentional disregard for election regulations
In his evidence, he contended that the Electoral Act’s Sections 64(4) and (5) and INEC’s Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of the election mandated the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines for the electronic transmission of election results from polling places directly to INEC’s collation system for verification, confirmation, and collation of results prior to announcement.
“The results of the National Assembly election that held simultaneously were electronically transmitted without difficulty,” Atiku told the apex court, citing testimony from some of the presiding officers who personally operated the BVAS machines at polling places on election day before the PEPC. “They confirmed the non-transmission of the presidential election results electronically from the BVAS machines,” Atiku said.
“The election result was significantly impacted by the nationwide circumvention of the mandated verification technology, which affected every polling place and result collation process throughout Nigeria,” Atiku continued.
Nothing was said by INEC to explain the issue in the results’ e-transmission.
A technological issue that caused the system to malfunction on election day was acknowledged by INEC’s lone witness, Lawrence Bayode, who further informed the court, “which technical glitch was not explained by the 1st Respondent.”
Furthermore, he contended that the INEC guidelines and rules may be considered subsidiary legislation because they were a direct result of the Constitution itself and had legal effect under Section 169(1) of the Constitution and Section 148 of the Electoral Act.
In his statement to the supreme court, Atiku claimed that widespread noncompliance with the Electoral Act had affected 176, 846 polling places worldwide and had a significant impact on the election’s result.
The Appellants contended that, in accordance with the Electoral Act 2022, which established a new legal framework for technology-based collation of results, the First Respondent had intentionally failed to comply with the electronic transmission of election results, a claim supported by credible evidence.
The principle of reasonable anticipation
According to him, the election results should have been nullified “based on the doctrine of legitimate expectation.”
Abuja is not the 37th state; the FCT 25% threshold is mandatory.
About the constitutional requirement of one-quarter of the votes in two-thirds of the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Atiku said that it was a prerequisite for an INEC declaration since it was an extra and mandatory requirement to the provisions pertaining to the highest lawful votes.
Given the explicit language of Sections 2(2) and 3(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Abuja cannot be interpreted, as the lower court did, as the 37th state of Nigeria.
The lower court’s obligation to interpret the significant term “AND” in the aforementioned subsection was not fulfilled.
The Constitution’s Section 134(2)(b) makes it explicit that a presidential contender must receive at least 25% of the vote in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“The language of Section 134 (2) (b) of the Constitution is clear and unambiguous, and it is not unreasonable to apply a different interpretation than the literal rule, as the lower court mistakenly did,” Atiku added in the appeal he and his party, the PDP, filed.
The appellants, then, appealed to the supreme court to grant their primary or alternative remedies, set aside the PEPC’s verdict, and accept the appeal.
He asked the Supreme Court to rule, among other things, that Tinubu was not legitimately elected by the majority of valid votes cast in the election and that he was ineligible to be named the victor.
Atiku, instead of asking the court to proclaim him the legitimate winner of the election and order his inauguration as president, pleaded with the court to order a run-off between himself and Tinubu or to declare the entire poll invalid and compel INEC to hold a new one. In the appeal, the APC, Tinubu, and INEC were listed as Respondents.
Lawwise, PEPC erred – Obi
In his appeal, Obi—who finished third in the presidential vote—argued that the PEPC panel’s decision to reject his petition was incorrect due to legal errors.
He said the panel committed a serious injustice when it determined that he failed to identify the polling places at which anomalies transpired during the election, and that the panel incorrectly assessed the evidence he presented to it.
Further criticism of the PEPC’s decision to reject Obi and the LP’s petition came from the fact that they failed to provide specific numbers for the allegedly manipulated or suppressed votes or scores in favor of President Tinubu and the APC.
The panel chaired by Justice Tsammani was also accused of legal error when it excluded certain paragraphs from the petition by citing paragraphs 4(1) (d) (2) and 54 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022.
Obi maintained that his witnesses’ evidence was improperly rejected as defective, even as he accused the lower court of violating his right to a fair trial.
He complained to the supreme court that the panel had unfairly disregarded his claim that INEC had submitted 18, 088 results with blurry images to its IReV platform.
In addition, Obi claimed that the lower court disregarded his claim that the certified true copies of the documents, which INEC sent to his legal team, included 8, 123 blurry results with blank A4 pages, photographs, and images of unidentified people, claiming to be the CTC of polling place results for the presidential election.
“When the court below’s learned justices held and concluded that he had not proven the allegations of corrupt practices and excessive voting, they committed a legal error and caused a miscarriage of justice,” Obi continued.
INEC disregarded its e-transmission rule.
In rejecting his argument that INEC disregarded its own rules by refusing to electronically transfer election results from polling places to the IReV, he stated the lower court erred in using the legal doctrine of estoppel.
The petitioners presented solid and reliable evidence, both oral and documentary, demonstrating the Respondents’ flagrant violations of the Electoral Act 2022 during the election’s administration.
“The petitioners presented evidence of substantial non-compliance, which the Respondents failed to refute,” the Appellants said, adding that the panel erroneously disregarded the double nomination claim made against Kashim Shettima, Tinubu’s vice president. In a drug-related case, Tinubu was found guilty and fined $460,000.
As for President Tinubu, Obi maintained that the PEPC disregarded evidence showing that he had previously been charged with a narcotics offense and fined $460,000 in the United States.
“The legal definition of a fine encompasses a civil forfeiture, so the imposition of a fine is not exclusive to criminal convictions,” Obi added in his appeal.
What brought us to S-Court — LP
In a statement released yesterday, the Labour Party’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, stated that the party’s decision to appeal Tinubu’s election to the Supreme Court stemmed from its belief that the lower court made legal and factual errors in reaching its rulings.
“The 51 grounds are considered an error in law,” Ifoh stated. “The party’s legal team intends to prove that Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, did not win the election and that it was incorrect for both INEC and the PEPC to declare him the winner when numerous incontrovertible points were proving otherwise.”
Four main things are what the Labour Party and Obi want from the Supreme Court: Grant the remedy requested in the petition, either in the main or in the alternative, and allow the appeal in addition to overturning the PEPC’s erroneous ruling.
“Abi and the Labour Party enumerated the specifics of the PEPC’s miscalculation regarding the 25% threshold for Abuja as follows:
That the PEPC neglected to recognize that the President is required to receive 25% of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory in order to take office or hold the position of President.
“Moreover, they charged that the PEPC had failed to recognize the more comprehensive meaning of Section 299, which will become evident upon a careful analysis of Section 301 of the Constitution.”