BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja
Despite dissenting voices, President Bola Tinubu coasted to victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) after over 12-hour marathon judgement on Wednesday.
The five-member panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani dismissed the petitions filed by the Labour Party (LP) and its Presidential Candidate, Mr Peter Obi; People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
Other members of the panel include Justices Stephen Adah, Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf (female), Moses Ugo and Abbah Mohammed.
Presidential Diary reports that the petitions were filed at the PEPT sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, within three weeks of the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of February 25 presidential election.
Justice Tsammani held that there was no clear evidence by the petitioners to prove the allegations of corrupt practices.
He said that the petitioners failed to present alternative results upon which they claimed they had won the election.
Tsammani, who was also the chairman of the panel insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was right to declare Tinubu as the winner of the election.
He said: “INEC was, therefore, right to declare Tinubu as the winner of the election in the absence of any other rival or alternate results placed before this court by the petitioners that the second respondent (Tinubu) scored 8,794,722 votes as against 6,984,520 votes scored by the petitioners (Atiku and PDP).
“Having considered and decided that the three petitions … are all devoid of merit, the petitions are hereby dismissed.
“Accordingly, I find the declaration and return of Bola Ahmed Tinubu by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Uploading results on IREV
The tribunal held that LP 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 and 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,” he added.
The chairman dismissed the petition of the LP and Obi, which argued that the victory of Tinubu be annulled given the failure of INEC to upload election results on IREV portal in real-time.
On LP’s petition of irregularities in the 2023 presidential election, the tribunal submitted that it was universal.
Tsammani quoted Sections 52 and 65 of the Electoral Act 2022 as saying that INEC was at liberty to decide the mode of transmission of election results during the presidential election.
One of the petitions filed by the PDP and Atiku against Tinubu was the issue of dual citizenship. He alleged that Tinubu owns dual citizenship and so should be disqualified from the poll.
Tsammani held that the issues of Tinubu’s conviction and dual citizenship were incompetent and liable to be struck out.
To this end, the tribunal struck out the petition and the evidence of some of Atiku’s witnesses on the ground that their witness statements on oath were not filed along with his petition.
Rejection of Obi’s evidence
The tribunal rejected the evidence and exhibits tendered by 10 out of the 13 witnesses presented by Obi.
Justice Tsammani hinted that the statement of witnesses, who were subpoenaed to testify in the case, were not competent and could not be recognised by the court.
This, he said was because they were not filed along with the petition as of the close of the 21 days within which the petitioners must file their case.
“They are therefore not the witnesses of this court,” he added.
Lending his voice, Justice Adah submitted that “justice is neither based on technicality nor on justice according to the suggestive clout of pressure groups.
“When a court of law is called upon to determine an election dispute, he is called upon to do justice. Our notion of doing justice is not that of doing justice according to the whims and caprices of the judges or the parties; it must be justice according to law.”
Justice Bolaji-Yusuf added that election petition is a serious issue, saying that a petitioner is not permitted to engage in fishing expedition or a roving enquiry as the petitioners herein did.
“It is clear from the outset that the petitioners were engaging in wild goose chase and an inquisitorial adventure,” she said.