The political landscape in Nigeria is abuzz with developments as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its 2023 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, have taken the crucial step of appealing the verdict delivered by the Presidential Election Petition Court to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. This move comes after the earlier dismissal of their petition challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The appeal, bearing the reference SC/ /2023 CA/PEPC/05/2023, has been filed by Atiku and the PDP as the Appellants, with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) listed as the Respondents.
In their Notice of Appeal, the Appellants expressed dissatisfaction with the decision outlined in the consolidated judgment of the Court of Appeal, which had served as the Presidential Election Petition Court. The appeal to the Supreme Court seeks to address the issues specified in their grounds for appeal and to secure the reliefs outlined in their submission.
The initial verdict by the Presidential Election Petition Court not only rejected Atiku and the PDP’s petition but also dismissed a similar petition from Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, deeming it “unmeritorious.” The joint petition from Atiku and the PDP had alleged various irregularities, corrupt practices, and non-compliance by INEC with electoral laws. Furthermore, they raised concerns about Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the election, citing alleged offenses related to the forfeiture of $460,000 and dual citizenship, among other issues.
Atiku had presented 27 witnesses to substantiate these allegations of irregularities and more. However, the tribunal struck out several paragraphs from the petition and rejected various exhibits and witness statements provided by Atiku, asserting that they lacked a strong legal foundation.
Justice Moses Ugoh, presiding over the case, emphasized that critical facts required to support the petition were missing, such as specific locations where alleged ballot box snatching occurred, how BVAS machines were manipulated, and the polling units where malpractice allegedly took place. Additionally, Atiku failed to clearly state the total number of lawful votes he believed he had received.
Furthermore, Atiku was criticized for making serious allegations against Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello and the Chairman of the Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi, Friday Adejoh, without including them as respondents in the petition, which was deemed a fatal omission.
The tribunal also dismissed claims of over-voting across Nigeria due to a lack of specific locations where such over-voting was alleged to have occurred.
Moreover, the tribunal found fault with Atiku’s introduction of allegations regarding criminal conviction, certificate forgery, and dual citizenship against Tinubu, outside the standard procedure for filing a petition.
In a separate ruling, Justice Stephen Jonah Adah ordered the removal of several documents submitted by Atiku, citing that they were introduced during the petition’s pendency. Additionally, the evidence provided by key witnesses for Atiku was expunged from the court records as it did not adhere to established legal norms.
Ultimately, the tribunal’s stance was that Atiku’s petition had been constructed in a manner that led to the removal of numerous paragraphs for lack of merit. The tribunal also dismissed Atiku’s argument regarding Tinubu’s alleged dual citizenship.
This appeal to the Supreme Court marks a significant development in the ongoing legal battle following the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria.