In the coming week, Nigerians will be closely watching the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) as it decides on the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
The judgment’s impact on Nigeria’s political landscape and its democracy is a matter of concern. The 2023 election petition has captured significant attention especially on social media, making it one of the most closely followed in the country’s history.
All parties involved have presented their cases, leaving the decision now in the hands of the court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani.
“The judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court has the potential to create history or disappointment,” said Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights lawyer based in the United States.
Abubakar Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), along with Peter Obi and the Labour Party, are challenging the results of the February 25 presidential election at the PEPC.
On August 1, the parties involved were directed by the five-member panel of justices, led by Tsammani, to present their final arguments, setting the stage for the judgment.
This pre-judgment phase, often called closing or final arguments, is where the parties consolidate all their presented points into a single document. In this instance, as required by the panel, it spanned forty pages.
The final arguments provide the legal representatives with the opportunity to emphasise their key points concisely. The atmosphere surrounding the Court of Appeal premises, where the PEPC is situated, took on a different air on the day of the final arguments’ adoption.
Atiku, who had previously only appeared in court during its opening session on March 8, was present this time. Obi, a regular attendee since day one, had a unique addition to his entourage on this day — the acclaimed author Chimamanda Adichie was among the supporters who accompanied Obi to court. They want Tinubu’s victory in the election dismissed.
During the proceedings, Justice Tsammani allocated 20 minutes to each counsel for the adoption of their final arguments. Worth noting is that the court alternated the appearance of each petitioner between morning and afternoon sessions each week.
On the closing arguments day, Atiku and the PDP were assigned the morning session. The three respondents – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Bola Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – took their turns presenting their 40-page final arguments.
Abubakar Mahmoud, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), representing INEC, requested the dismissal of the petition, claiming it lacked merit. He argued that the presidential election was conducted in substantial compliance with all relevant laws.
Wole Olanipekun, SAN, representing Tinubu, also urged the court to dismiss the petition, asserting it was devoid of merit and substance. Olanipekun stated that the petitioners had not provided valid evidence to support their case before the court, emphasising that the court could not grant what had not been requested.