Ahead of the take off of legal battles challenging the outcome of the 2023 Presidential election in Nigeria, the two main contenders, the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) and the Labour Party ( LP) will this week take the fight to reclaim their “mandate” out of the shores of Nigeria to far away United States of America.
The event which is also tagged “Mother of all protest rallies,” is being put together by “The Coalition of Nigerian Organisations in the United States” and is expected to take place at the White House Lafayette Square between May 6 and 8, 2023.
BusinessDay gathered that it would be followed by a World press conference, to be hosted by the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), World Conference
The mega protest rally, will also see several Nigerians from the political and economic spheres speaking to global audience on the current political situation in the country
Those listed to speak at the rally with the theme: ‘Democracy Under Threats in Nigeria,’ include the Vice Presidential candidates of the two leading political parties, including Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP)’s Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and that of the Labour Party (LP), Datti Baba-Ahmed.
Others include the Director-General of the PDP campaign Council and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, Pedro Obaseki, the PDP Director, Research and Strategy, Pat Utomi, a Labour Party Chieftain, Valentine Ozigbo of the Labour Party, as well as Aisha Yesufu, a business woman and an activist.
The World Press Conference with the Theme: “Nigeria at a Crossroads: 2023 Elections Postmortem, Issues, Contradictions, and Solutions,” will take place at the National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, 13th Floor, Washington DC 20045
The rally and speeches are expected to focus on several topics, including “Nigerians Eye on Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Nigerians Eye on Court of Appeal, Nigerians Eye on Supreme Court and Nigerians Eye on Police, Military, and DSS”
This is coming ahead of the commencement of the legal battles involving the three main political parties, namely the ruling All Progressive Congress ( APC), the PDP and the LP, as well as the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
BusinessDay search reveals that all the four interested parties have put together a team comprising 90 Senior lawyers, mainly Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to do the legal battles.
Sections 132 (7) and (8) of the Electoral Act 2022, allows for petitions to be filed within 21 days after the declaration of results. The respondents have 21 days to respond, while the court has 180 days to decide.
The Federal Government have put together, a team of senior judicial officers drawn from State High Court, FCT High Court, Federal High Court and National Industrial Court, to preside over the Petition Tribunals.
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja, the nation’s capital, is made up of five Justices of the Court of Appeal to be led by the President of the Court, Bolna’an Dongban-Mensem.
Other members include Justices Haruna Tsammani, Jonah Adah, Bello Mohammed and Joseph Ikyegh.
The President – elect and the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu tops the pack with an assemblage of over 50 lawyers, followed by the PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar’s 19, while the LP candidate,
Peter Obi has 12 and INEC 9, all within the ranks of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
This shows that while the President- elect Bola Tinubu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who are defending the election have 59 lawyers, the two main Petitioners who are the main opposition candidates have a combined team of 31 lawyers, all made up of Senior Advocates of Nigeria ( SAN).
Renowned legal practitioner, Wole Olanipekun is leading the legal team of Bola Tinubu, which comprised of Akin Olujimi, Yusuf Ali, Lateef Fagbemi, A.U Mustapha, Ahmed Raji, Abiodun Owonikoko, Kemi Pinheiro, and Niyi Akintola.
Other are H.M. Liman, Taiwo Osipitan, Babatunde Ogala, Roland Otaru , James Onoja, Muiz Banire, Olusola Oke and Mohammed Abubakar.
BusinessDay gathered that INEC, with a budget of over N3bn to defend the results of the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections and the March 18 governorship and state assembly polls, has put together, a team of lawyers comprising nine Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
The former Nigerian Bar Association President, Abubakar Mahmoud, is leading the INEC team comprising Stephen Adehi, Oluwakemi Pinheiro, Miannaya Essien, and Abdullahi Aliyu
Others are Garba Hassan, Musa Attah, and Patricia Obi.
On the other hand, leading the Atiku’s legal team is Kyari Gadzama, who is leading others including Chris Uche (SAN), Paul Usoro (SAN), Tayo Jegede (SAN), Ken Mozia (SAN), Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Mahmood Magaji (SAN), Joe Abraham (SAN), Chukwuma Umeh (SAN), Garba Tetengi (SAN) and Emeka Etiaba (SAN).
Others are Goddy Uche (SAN), Maxwell Gidado (SAN); the National Legal Adviser of the PDP, A. K. Ajibade (SAN), O. M. Atoyebi, (SAN), Nella Rabana (SAN), Paul Ogbole (SAN), Nuremi Jimoh (SAN), and Abdul Ibrahim (SAN).
Peter Obi’s legal team, also made up of Senior Advocates of Nigeria ( SAN), has Livy Uzoukwu, Awa Kalu, Onyechi Ikpeazu, P.I.N. Ikwueto, Ben Anyachebe, S.T. Hon, Arthur Okafor, Ik Ezechukwu, J.S. Okutepa, Valerie Azinge, Emeka Okpoko, and Alex Ejesieme.
Amongst the several issues, PDP and the LP are challenging the independent National Electoral Commission’s declaration of the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 Presidential election, asserting that that the election was conducted in gross violation of provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act.
The PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar has also filed a petition, urging the tribunal to “ disqualify the APC candidate and President elect, Nola Tinubu on the grounds of “ dual citizenship” for holding a Passport of Republic of Guinea,
Relying on Section 137 (1)(a) of the Nigerian Constitution which says a “person will not be qualified to be president if “he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria.” the PDP candidate urged the tribunal to disqualify Tinubu as he was not qualified to seek the Nigeria’s highest office in the first instance
But INEC in their response, declared that presidential election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022.
Both the APC and INEC, in their separate replies to the LP and Obi petition’s asked the court to deny them all the reliefs sought on the grounds that their petition is “devoid of any merit and also founded on frivolity”.
The APC also filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection to the hearing of the petition on the grounds that the petition is incompetent and lacking in merit,
The party also queried tribunal’s power to hear the petition, adding that it lacked necessary jurisdiction to entertain it in the first place.
Amongst others, APC claimed that the Labour Party lacked the necessary locus standi to initiate the suit against the outcome of the presidential election on the grounds that it did “not present a valid candidate for that election.”
Thomas Ojo, filing the APC’s response from the chambers of Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, claimed that Obi was still a member of the PDP as at the time he was sponsored by the Labour Party.
“The 1st Petitioner herein resigned his membership of the PDP on May 26, 2022 and joined the Labour Party the following day being May 27, 2022.
“The 2nd Petitioner herein conducted its Presidential Primary on May 30, 2022 which produced the 1st Petitioner as the candidate it intended to sponsor in the General Election
“By section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, the 2nd Petitioner is mandated to have submitted its comprehensive register of members to the Ist Respondent 30 days before its presidential primary That is to say the said register of members must have been submitted to the Ist Respondent on or before 30th April, 2022.
“The 1st Petitioner as at April 30, 2022 was still a member of the PDP and his name was not and could not have been in the register of members submitted by the 2nd Petitioner to 1st Respondent”.
In another ground, APC argued that the LP and Obi’s petition was defective because they failed to include candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who came second in the Presidential election with 6,984,520 votes as against the petitioners who came third with 6,101,533 votes.
It is the APC’s submission that “For the Tribunal to grant prayer (iii) of the Petitioners, the Tribunal must have set aside the scores and election of Alhaji: Atiku Abubakar;
“Ahaji Atiku Abubakar must be heard before his votes can be discountenanced by the Tribunal.
“The petition is incompetent for failure to join as a party to the petition the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar the Ist runner up and his political party People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as a Respondent whose right would be affected by the reliefs sought in the petition.”