Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has addressed President Bola Tinubu regarding the admissibility of fresh evidence related to alleged forgery in Tinubu’s challenge of the February 25 election outcome.
The development unfolds as the Supreme Court is set to commence hearings on Monday, involving three political parties contesting the election results, with a pivotal ruling centring on Atiku’s request to submit copies of depositions from the Chicago State University (CSU) in the United States concerning Tinubu’s diploma to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Tinubu’s legal team had petitioned the apex court, urging it to reject the newly presented 32-page depositions, arguing that they were submitted outside the 180-day timeframe stipulated by the Electoral Act of 2022 for petition hearings related to the February 25 presidential election.
In response to Atiku’s application for leave to introduce this fresh evidence, Tinubu’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), contended that the Supreme Court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to consider and decide on this new evidence at this stage of the appeal.
However, Chris Uche (SAN), the lead counsel representing Atiku, countered Tinubu’s argument. Uche asserted that contrary to Tinubu’s stance, there exists no constitutional limitation of 180 days for the lower court to adjudicate a presidential election petition, which would hinder the honourable court from exercising its authority.
Uche pointed out that the constitution holds precedence over other legislation, and the 180-day time limit for determining election disputes in the lower tribunals, as delineated in Section 285(6), does not apply to the Court of Appeal, and, consequently, the Supreme Court.
“The constitution intentionally and deliberately established the 180-day limit solely for election tribunals and not for the Court of Appeal. Conversely, when addressing appeals, the constitution unambiguously extended the same timeline to the Court of Appeal,” Uche argued.
He referenced Section 233 subsections (1) and (2)(e)(i) of the constitution, which stipulates that “The Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction, to the exclusion of any other court of law in Nigeria, to hear and determine appeals from the Court of Appeal.
An appeal shall lie from decisions of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court as of right in the following cases, including decisions on any question of whether any person has been validly elected to the office of President or Vice President under this constitution.”