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Tribunal upholds Tinubu’s electoral victory, what next for Atiku, Obi?

Tribunal upholds Tinubu’s electoral victory, what next for Atiku, Obi?

The much-awaited judgement from the five esteemed judges of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) upheld the victory of President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday.

The APC and its candidate (Tinubu) victory comes at the expense of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who came in second and third in the February 25 presidential election.

Peter Obi’s petition was struck out for the following reasons:

Reading the judgement at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, the venue of the PEPC, Justice Abba Bello Mohammed struck out Obi’s and the Labour Party petition on the following grounds:

PEPC ruled that 10 Labour Party witnesses’ statements were inadmissible, leaving only 3 valid. Concerns about their bias were cited. Blurred polling unit results were not specified and were removed from the evidence record.

The PEPC determined that the forfeiture of $460,000 related to Bola Ahmed Tinubu was a civil matter, not a criminal one. It emphasised that this was a civil forfeiture without a criminal conviction. Furthermore, the court noted that the Labour Party failed to provide evidence of Tinubu’s arraignment, trial, fines, or sentencing for any criminal offence.

The court also ruled that INEC cannot be forced to electronically transmit election results to its results viewing portal, or IREV, rejecting claims of substantial non-compliance with electoral act provisions made by Peter Obi and the Labour Party.

Read also Tinubu ‘buoyed’ by tribunal ruling, vows to unite Nigeria

The court noted that Obi’s and Labour Party claims of widespread irregularities, voter suppression, and corrupt practices were unconvincing and without enough evidence backing its claims, which were mere allegations and not enough to throw away the entire outcome.

It also ruled that President Tinubu is academically qualified to contest for president and as a result disqualification based on academic qualification was inadequate.

Also the court said that residents in Abuja not special, and that 25 percent in FCT was not a sufficient ground to declared winner and President.

The court also added that Obi failed to provide sufficient evidence that he actually won the election.

The court also ruled on the double nomination case against Shettima saying that “the double nomination case against Shettima is incompetent.”

Now that the election tribunal has ruled in favour of the defendant (Tinubu and the APC), what options do the plaintiff or those contesting the judgement have to explore to seek redress?

BusinessDay spoke with Barrister Rose Okojie, a constitutional lawyer based in Lagos State, and she offered her thoughts about the proceedings at the Presidential Election Tribunal and the options available for the losers or plaintiffs to explore.

Read also Election tribunal dismisses PDP’s allegations of forgery against Tinubu

Barrister Okojie, quoting Section 241 of the Nigerian Constitution, said that all parties that feel aggrieved by the outcome of the proceeding should appeal the judgement in a higher court, in this case, the Supreme Court.

“At the tribunal, if the judgement is not held in their favour, what the aggrieved parties should do is appeal to the Supreme Court, which is the upper court, against the judgement,” Okojie said.

“Based on the court’s decision and the court’s error where they said that the court was in error to have done this, this, this, or it could be based on the part that they are not in agreement with.”

She added that Obi, the Labour Party, Atiku Abubakar, the PDP, and other aggrieved parties should identify the aspect of the judgement or its entirety that they are not happy with and appeal it to the Supreme Court.

Femi Falana, SAN, said during a recent Channels TV interview “that any party that loses on Wednesday still has the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Once again, whoever is dissatisfied on Wednesday will have the opportunity to go to the court of appeal. It can be either way; election petition tribunals have delivered judgements in this country, and sometimes those who you thought would win later lost, and for me, I want to appeal to Nigerians to allow the due process of law to take its course.”

When can Obi and Atiku file their appeal against the ruling of the PEPC to the Supreme Court, and how long does it take for the highest court to rule on their appeal?

Okojie said that according to the amended electoral act, the aggrieved parties are expected to file their appeal within 14 days of the ruling. She warned that failure to explore this window of opportunity will throw their cases out on a technicality.

“If the aggrieved party is unhappy with the ruling, they can file an appeal before the Supreme Court within 14 days,” Okojie said. “And any appeal filed outside the 14 days is null and void.”

She added that the Supreme Court is also expected to announce its ruling within 60 days of receiving the petitioner’s appeal.

Read also Election tribunal affirms Tinubu’s victory

Since 1999, has any ruling in the Supreme Court gone against the incumbent winner and president?

In 1999, Olu Falae of the Alliance of Democracy (AD), the main contender to President Olusegun Obasanjo, contested the result of the election and lost. The Court of Appeal struck out his application on grounds of technicalities.

“I didn’t lose. In fact, I won the election. The military felt safer in the hands of a fellow military man (Obasanjo) as their successor,” Falae said.

2004 Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) contested the election result that returned Obasanjo and lost at the Supreme Court.

Again, in 2007, Umaru Musa Yar’adua won the controversial presidential election, and his victory was validated at the Supreme Court after Buhari of the ANPP and Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had unsuccessfully contested the result at the apex court.

In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan, the then-candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and eventual winner of the 2011 presidential election, had his victory validated by the Supreme Court, defeating Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Nuhu Ribadu of the ACN.

However, it was only in 2015 that the result of the presidential election was not contested at the Tribunal or the Supreme Court.

In 2019, Atiku contested the presidential election result, which returned the incumbent president, Buhari, and lost at the Supreme Court.

According to historical facts, the judiciary and the Supreme Court have never overturned the result of the presidential election in Nigeria.