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Decisive rulings so far in Nigeria’s Presidential Election Petition Tribunal judgement

Decisive rulings so far in Nigeria’s Presidential Election Petition Tribunal judgement

Nigeria’s presidential election petition tribunal (PEPT) is already far into its ruling on whether Bola Tinubu should stay as president after two co-contestants challenged his victory in February 2023’s disputed election.

The lead judgment is currently being read by Justice Haruna Tsammani.

Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party’s (LP) Peter Obi asked the court to invalidate the election, alleging irregularities and accused the electoral body of breaching the law by failing to use electronic machines to upload polling station results, among other criticisms.

Some of the decisive rulings so far:

Tribunal says US court’s fine against Tinubu didn’t disqualify him

The Tibunal has already dispelled with one of the cardinal aspects of the opposition parties challenge to Tinubu’s victory, ruling that he and his vice, Kashim Shettma, were qualified to have contested the last presidential election.

The court held that Tinubu was not disqualified by the fine imposed on him by a United States court following a civil forfeiture proceeding.

In its judgment on Wednesday in the petition by Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP), the court held that the fine imposed by the US court did not qualify as a fine for fraud or dishonesty provided in Section 137(1)(d) of the Nigerian Constitution.

It added that the petitioners evidently failed to prove their case that Tinubu was disqualified by virtue of the decision of the US court, adding that Obi and the LP did not comply with the requirement of Section 249(1) and (2) of the Evidence Act in proving conviction outside the country.

It held that the US court case was in respect of a civil case, not a criminal case, adding that even if it was to be a criminal case, Section 137(1)(e) of the Constitution, such conviction or flne must be within 10 years for a person to be disqualified.

EU’s report on 2023 poll tendered by Obi, LP rejected

The PEPT has expunged from its records, a copy of the report on the last presidential election made by the European Union (EU) Election Observers Mission tendered by Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP).

The court held that the document was obtained by the petitioners from its registry, which was certified by its staff who is not a person with original custody of the document that was produced by the EU mission.

Recall that the actual copy of the report was earlier tendered by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while prosecuting their petition before the court.

The court also rejected the 18088 blurred results sheets tendered by the petitioners on the grounds that they were not tied to any polling units to which the results related, which the petitioners failed to specify in their petition.

The court held that the petitioners lied that they could not identify the polling units because the result sheets were blurred. It noted that one of the same petitioners’ witnesses actually produced a report in which he analysed the same results, which he claimed to have sourced from INEC’s results viewing platform.

It further noted that having admitted that its agents signed for and collected copies of the result sheets, the petitioners cannot claim not to know the polling units affected, but merely chose not to specify the polling units in their petition.

Evidence by 10 out of Obi/LP’s 13 witnesses stricken out

The PEPT has struck out the evidence of 10 out of the 13 witnesses called by Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP) in support of their petition against the election of President Bola Tinubu.

In its judgment, the court noted that the witnesses, who were subpoenaed at the instance of the petitioners, had their written statements, which contained their evidence, were not filed along or frontloaded with the petition within the 21 days allowed by the Electoral Act 2022.

The court also rejected the documents, including the report of analysis, tendered by the petitioners through the affected 10 witnesses.

The court also held that some of the witnesses are not only persons with interest in the outcome of the case, the reports they tendered were made during the pendency of the case.

Parts of petition by Obi, LP stricken out for being vague

The PEPT also struck out about 17 paragraphs of the petition by Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP) for containing vague and generic allegations.

In a ruling on some motions filed by the respondents to the petition, the court held that in the affected paragraphs, the petitioners made allegations of malpractices and irregularities in the conduct of the election, but failed to provide specific details in support of the allegations.

The court noted, for instance, that the petitioners failed to show which polling units the malpractices alleged occurred; the number of votes affected; and their polling unit agents who reported the alleged irregularities and malpractices, among others.

It rejected the respondents’ argument that Obi was not a member of the LP at the time of the election, noting that membership is an internal affair of a political party, which has the sole power to determine who its members are.

The court held that it did not lie with the respondents to question Obi’s membership of the LP.

The court also faulted the contention that Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second in the election, were necessary parties that ought to be joined in the petition.

Respondents to the petition are INEC, President Bola Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettma and the APC.

NOTE: The full judgement as still being read as of the time this story was published.

 

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