As Nigerians wait with bated breath for the judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Court, which is presently considering the materials involved in the February 25 presidential election, there are high expectations across the nation.
According to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayoode Ariwoola, the judiciary has no plans to favour any of the petitioners and the respondents in the petitions before the court.
The CJN, in a statement on July 19 in response to allegations against the judiciary ahead of the now reserved judgement in the presidential elections, assured that the judiciary will abide by the law and the constitution in arriving at its decision.
After parties in the presidential election submitted their final written addresses at the court on August 1, Nigerians have been making inquiries as to the date of the final verdict of the court.
The stiff challenges to the outcome of the election have been mounted by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi and Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Chichi Ojei. In defence, the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Bola Tinubu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) filed their addresses against the grant of the requests of the opposition.
The panel presided by Justice Haruna Tsammani leading other members such as Justices Stephen Adah, Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf, Boloukuoromo Moses Ugo and Abba Bello Mohammed had assured the litigants that the reserved date would be communicated to them in due course.
During the adoption of the final written addresses of the parties before the court, it became clear that some key issues have been presented for the determination of the court.
Atiku and PDP, through their counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) contended that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election having submitted forged certificates, including from the Chicago State University and the NYSC certificate with the name ‘Adekunle’; that he was fined the sum of $460,000 in drug and narcotic related offences in the Northern District Court of Illinois, USA in 1993, which is a breach of Section 137(i)(d) of the Nigerian Constitution and that he failed to disclose his dual citizenship with Guinea in INEC form EC9,
They further contended that he failed to score 25 per cent of the total votes cast in the FCT as provided in Section 134(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, that his running mate was not properly nominated having been a candidate of the Borno Central Senatorial District before he became the vice presidential candidate, and that the election was marred by irregularities and corrupt acts including the non-compliance with the Electoral Act for the direct upload of results from the polling units after the sum of N355 billion was invested for that.
In their petitions, Obi and LP, through their lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) contended that Tinubu was disqualified by the reason of double nomination of his running mate, Kashim Shettima in more than one constituency in one election cycle after he was nominated APC candidate for the senatorial seat and remained so until July 15, 2022 when he was formally substituted, which breached Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
They also contended that the forfeiture of the sum of $460,000 in the USA was a fine as defined in the constitution and the previous judgments of the Supreme Court.
Obi contended that the non-upload of results of the election from the BVAS machines to IREV resulted in blurred results from INEC with 18,088 polling unit results and votes cast by 2.55 million voters; he submitted that he was the only candidate with the majority of lawful votes cast and the 25 per cent required in the FCT under Section 134(2) of the Nigerian Constitution.
In their sole issue before the tribunal, APM and Ojei, through their lead counsel, Yakubu Maikasuwa (SAN) contended that Tinubu and Shettima were not validly nominated to contest the February 25. They argued that by the combined reading of Sections 131(c) and 142(2) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 and Section 133 of the Electoral Act made them to invalid.
They contended that when Kabiru Masari announced his withdrawal as an APC placeholder on June 24, 2022 to the date Shettima’s name was forwarded to INEC on July 14, 2022, was 21 days, which breached Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022, which provides for 14 days for the replacement of a candidate for an election.
In their replies, INEC, through its lead counsel, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) asked the court to dismiss the petitioners’ petitions submitting that APM’s petition had been determined by the Supreme Court on May 26.
INEC said both Atiku and Obi failed to prove that electronic collation of results was provided for in the law. He said they failed to counter its position that technical glitches on the Amazon Website Service (AWS) affected the upload of results.
For his part, Tinubu, through his lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) asked the court to dismiss the petitions for failing to establish the claims made before the court.
He asked the court to hold that Tinubu scored 25 per cent of two-thirds of votes in the FCT and had the requisite numbers as interpreted by the courts in Shagari vs Awolowo in 1979, adding that the intention of the constitution was not to make the FCT a special state but the 37th state of the federation.
Counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) also asked the court to dismiss the petitions for lacking in merit.
Section 132(8) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides that the hearing and determination of the petitions would be decided within 180 days. Thereafter, another 60 days would be set aside for the appeal.
Going by the provision of Section 132(7) of the Electoral Act, 2022, each petitioner had 21 days after the announcement of the results to petition the presidential court.
The announcement of Tinubu as winner was made on March 1 while the petitions were activated on March 22. September 18 will make it 180 days since the commencement of the petition and within which time the judgement of the first instance must be delivered.
Reacting to the rumours in the judiciary, Jude Daniel said “The charge to the judiciary is to be above board, as Nigerians this time around will put the court itself on trial.
“This may be the last golden opportunity for the judiciary to redeem its reputation that has been dastardly battered by the political and influential class in the society.
For his part, the presiding justice of the, Justice Tsammani had maintained that the court will do justice in the petitions and would not rely on technicalities.