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2023 Polls: Why we affirm President Tinubu’s victory, dismiss Obi, Atiku’s petitions –Tribunal

PEPT Panel of Justices in Abuja, FCT

*The five-man Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani and sitting in Abuja declares petitions accordingly ‘lack merit’ and affirms ‘the return of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), in a 12-hour marathon judgement Wednesday, September 6, 2023, dismissed Mr. Peter Obi and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s petitions, and affirmed the electoral victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the elected President of Nigeria.

ConsumerConnect reports both Obi and Atiku were Presidential Candidates of Labour Party and People’s Democratic Party in the 2023 Presidential Election respectively.

Tinubu, Obi and Atiku       Photo Collage: Channels TV

The PEPT, sitting in the Court of Appeal, in Abuja, in a televised proceeding from 9a.m. to minutes past 9p.m. eventually, threw out the petitions of the three political parties challenging the victory of President Tinubu in the February 25 Presidential polls.

The five-man Tribunal, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, earlier Wednesday, had delivered its verdict on the petitions of the APM, followed by the LP and the PDP.

The PEPT did not only dismiss the consolidated petitions of the contending  parties, the panel also clearly affirmed the victory of Tinubu, who was formerly Lagos State Governor in the election.

Reading the judgement, 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.”

Present during the PEPT proceeding crowded b Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) Wednesday were some notable persons, including Vice-President Kashim Shettima, Chief of Staff Femi Gbajabiamila; and Julius Abure of LP, and several other Nigerians.

How Court dismisses APM’s petition

It was learnt the Tribunal dismissed the suit of APM seeking to nullify Tinubu’s election for “lacking in merit and being incompetent”.

Justice Tsammani, who read the judgment, held that issues the APM raised in its petition contained pre-election matters that could only be determined by the Federal High Court.

The court further upheld the preliminary objections of the respondents who challenged the competence of the suit.

Justice Tsammani noted that since the petition centred on the qualification of Tinubu to contest the presidential election, the APM ought to have gone to court within 14 days after Tinubu was nominated by the APC.

The Tribunal held that since the cause of action bordered on a pre-election matter, the APM lacked the locus standi to challenge Tinubu’s nomination.

The PEPT also noted that the main grouse of the APM was on the alleged invalid nomination of Tinubu’s then running mate, Shettima.

He further held that Section 84(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, stipulates that political parties should not impose qualification criteria on a candidate, except as provided for in the constitution.

INEC at liberty to decide mode of election results transmission, says Court

On the petitions of the Labour Party, the Tribunal ruled that the party’s petition of irregularities in the 2023 Presidential Election was “generic”.

The Court further ruled that Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)was at “liberty to decide” the mode of transmission of election results during the Presidential Election held February 25 this year.

The panel clarified that in line with Sections 52 and 65 of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC was at liberty to prescribe the manner in which election results were transmitted during the polls.

It, therefore, dismissed the petition of Peter Obi and LP, which had argued that Tinubu’s electoral victory be annulled on the basis on the “failure” of the commission’s Results Viewing Portal (IReV) to upload election results electronically in real time.

25 Percent not necessary, FCT is like others states, rules Tribunal

The Tribunal also threw out Obi and LP’s petitions on 25 percent votes of Tinubu in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The PEPT stated that Abuja, the country’s Capital, is like other states of the Federation.

No provision for e-transmission of results in Electoral Act 2022

According to the Court, the Electoral Act 2022 made no provision for electronic transmission of election results.

The Tribunal said the only technological device that was mandatory for INEC to use for the election  in the West African country is the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

Further clarifying the highly controversial issue of alleged non-compliance with the Electoral Act and INEC Regulations and Guidelines, Justice Tsammani declared that there is nothing in the extant regulation to show that the BVAS “must electronically transmit polling units’ results.”

Besides, 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.

Justice Tsammani stated: “There is no provision for the electronic transmission of election results in the Electoral Act 2022.

“It is at best optional.”

Obi failed to prove INEC refused to promptly upload results online’

Still on the application of technology tools during the 2023 General Elections, the Tribunal ruled that the Labour Party and Obi also failed to prove 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 Panel said: “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 as well ruled that Obi and his party failed to prove that Tinubu was convicted for money laundering in the United States (US).

The panel ruled that no record of criminal arrest or conviction was established against Tinubu by Obi and LP ss petitioners to PEPT.

Tinubu had allegedly forfeited $460,000 in the US over three decades ago and the petitioners alleged that he was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.

However, the Tribunal ruled that no criminal charge was filed against Tinubu in the US and that the APC candidate did not go through a criminal trial in the US.

The Tribunal said the petitioners failed to prove that the allegation at the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division where the forfeiture occurred at the time was a criminal case.

Justice Tsammani, therefore, said the Tribunal ruled the ex-Governor of Lagos State was not convicted of any crime or any criminal activity, and that no sentence of imprisonment or fine was imposed on him in the American country.

The Judge further said according to Section 137 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (As amended), Tinubu was not disqualified from contesting the Presidential polls in the country.

Atiku’s dual citizenship  petition against Tinubu struck out’

In regard to the Tribunal’s ruling on Atiku and PDP’s petition, the Tribunal dismissed the petitioners’ case alleging that Tinubu owns dual citizenship of Nigeria and Guinea, and so should be disqualified from the contesting the polls.

The PEPT also struck out the evidence of some of Atiku’s witnesses on the grounds that their witness statements on oath were not filed along with Atiku’s petition.

The court thus expunged 37 exhibits tendered by the witnesses from the court’s records.

Regarding the issue of Tinubu’s conviction and the issue of his dual citizenship, the Tribunal again, held like it earlier did in Obi and LP’s petition, that the issues were incompetent and liable to be struck out, and same were dismissed.

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