By Nicholas Ojo
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the 2023 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar have appealed against the ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Court at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The suit marked SC/ /2023 CA/PEPC/05/2023 was filed Atiku and the PDP as the Appellants while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tinubu Bola Ahmed and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are the Respondents.
The Appellants in the Notice of Appeal said they were “dissatisfied with the decision more particularly stated in paragraph 2 herein, contained in the consolidated judgment of the Court of Appeal (sitting as the Presidential Election Petition Court), coram:- Haruna Simon Tsammani, JCA, Stephen Jonah Adah, JCA, Misitura Omodere Bolaji-Yusuff, JCA, Boloukuroma Moses Ugo, JCA, and Abba Bello Mohammed, JCA delivered 6th September 2023 in Petition No. CA/PEPC/05/2023 between Abubakar Atiku & Anor vs Independent National Electoral Commission & 2 Ors, particularly contained from pages 487 to 752 of the consolidated judgment (as well as the concurring contributions and rulings thereto) doth hereby appeal to the Supreme Court upon the grounds set out in paragraph 3 and will at the hearing of the appeal seek the reliefs set out in paragraph 4.”
The Presidential Election Petition Court had dismissed the petition filed by the PDP and Atiku challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The tribunal also dismissed the petition of Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party, challenging Tinubu’s election, describing it as “unmeritorious”.
In their joint petition, Atiku and the PDP had alleged that there were irregularities, corrupt practices and non-compliance by INEC with the electoral laws.
They also argued that Tinubu was not qualified to contest on the grounds of alleged offences bordering on forfeiture of $460,000, and dual citizenship amongst others.
Atiku had called 27 witnesses to prove his allegations of irregularities, amongst others.
The tribunal struck out several paragraphs in the petition which were relied upon by Atiku and his party to push President Tinubu out of office.
Also, several exhibits and witnesses’ statements tendered by the former Vice President to prove his allegations of irregularities in the February 25 presidential election were rejected and discountenanced by the Tribunal.
Delivering a ruling on some objections argued by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) on behalf of Tinubu, Justice Moses Ugoh held that several parts of Atiku’s petition lacked legs upon which they could stand and survive, hence, were not competent.
Like the fate that befell his counterpart in the Labour Party, Peter Obi, the court said several facts fundamentally required to support the petition were not provided by Atiku.
Among others, Atiku was said to have failed to name the places where ballot boxes were allegedly snatched, how BVAS machines were manipulated and the polling units where alleged malpractice took place.
The petitioner who claimed to have polled the majority of lawful votes was said to have failed to state in clear terms the total number of lawful votes he believed he got.
Similarly, the tribunal said that the former Vice President made grievous allegations against Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and Chairman of the Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi, Friday Adejoh but failed to join them as respondents in the petition.
Justice Ugoh held that failure to join the governor who was accused of electoral fraud was fatal to the petition because the governor was denied the opportunity to defend himself as required by law.
The tribunal dismissed the allegations of over-voting all over Nigeria by the petitioner, adding that such pleadings run afoul of the law because the specific places where the alleged over-voting took place were not mentioned.
Atiku’s petition was also faulted on the ground that it introduced several allegations which caught the respondents unawares, adding that the tactic employed was unfair.
The court described it as being “clever by half”.
Among the new inputs said to have been wrongfully introduced by Atiku were the allegations of a criminal conviction, certificate forgery, and dual citizenship of Nigeria and Guinea made against Tinubu outside the mode of filing the petition.
Justice Stephen Jonah Adah who read another ruling on objections against the petition expunged several documents tendered by Atiku on the ground that the exhibits were made during the pendency of the petition.
Also, the evidence of several key witnesses of Atiku was expunged from the court record having been made in manners not known to law.
The tribunal held that the wrongful mode adopted by the PDP presidential candidate in the construction of the petition made several paragraphs of the petition liable to be struck out for want of merit.
It also dismissed an argument by Atiku that President Bola Tinubu has dual citizenship and therefore not qualified to hold office.