The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja has scheduled Wednesday for judgements on the three pending cases challenging the outcome of the 25 February presidential election.
It is coming about a month after the court heard the closing arguments of parties to the petitions and about two weeks to the expiration of the statutory 180-day lifespans within which the cases filed in March must be heard and determined.
The five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani had reserved judgements on the petitions after hearing the closing arguments of the parties to the cases in early August.
The petitions were filed separately by Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and a political party, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), to challenge President Bola Tinubu’s victory in the disputed election.
The Court of Appeal headquarters in Abuja, which hosts the election petition court, announced the date for the judgements in a statement on Monday.
The much-anticipated judgement will be televised live, according to Umar Bangari, the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, who signed the statement, a move that seeks to satisfy public demand that the court had earlier rejected during the hearing of the petitions.
“In a bid to promote transparency and openness, these judgements will be televised live by interested television stations for the public to follow,” the statement read in part.
It added: “Access to the court premises will be strictly on accreditation. Only accredited individuals, including counsel and representatives of political parties, will be granted access to the courtroom.
“Interested members of the public are advised to watch proceedings from their television sets.”
Nigeria held the keenly-contested presidential election alongside National Assembly polls on 25 February.
The polls were overshadowed by the uproar of the opposition candidates and their political parties alleging fraud in the exercise following the declaration of the results.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, on 1 March, declared Mr Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) polled 8.8 million votes to defeat 17 other candidates in what was largely a three horse race.
Atiku polled a total of 6,984,520 votes in the election to come second, while Mr Obi came behind Atiku with a total of 6,101,533 votes, according to INEC.
Before the close of the three weeks window for filing petitions against the elections, the aggrieved candidates – particularly Atiku and Mr Obi – filed their cases at the presidential election court, with each asking the court to either declare them the winner of the poll or order a fresh poll from which Mr Tinubu should be barred.
There were five petitions filed by aggrieved parties and their candidates at the close of the filing window in March. But, two of the petitions filed by the Action Peoples Party (APP) and the Action Alliance (AA) were withdrawn before the hearing began.
The two frontline petitions filed by Atiku and Mr Obi attacked the qualification of Mr Tinubu to contest the election, the legality of his nomination of his running mate, the integrity of the election process, and the threshold of the spread of votes used by INEC to declare Mr Tinubu, the winner of the poll.
They alleged, for instance, that Mr Tinubu was not eligible to participate in the election on the ground that he was fined $460,000 for an offence involving dishonesty, namely narcotics trafficking, imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in the United States of America.
They also alleged that Mr Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim Shettima, was illegally nominated for two separate constituencies in the same election cycle – as Borno Central senatorial candidate and vice-presidential candidate for the whole of Nigeria – therefore rendering their joint ticket invalid.
They also contended that Mr Tinubu did not win the majority of lawful votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of the states of the federation and the FCT, Abuja.
They alleged widespread manipulation and alteration of the results of the election.
According to the leading opposition candidates, the election was also marred by the failure of INEC to upload photographic copies of polling unit results on its Results Viewing (IReV) portal.
INEC introduced the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines and IReV to the recent elections to boost its integrity and credibility.
The APM, whose presidential candidate, Chichi Ojei, polled 25,961 votes, anchored its petition on the sole ground of the alleged double nomination of Mr Shettima.
The party asked the court to declare Atiku, who came second in the polls, as the winner.
But INEC, Mr Tinubu, and the APC denied the allegations through their respective legal teams during the hearing, urging the court to dismiss all three petitions for lack of merit.
They argued that the IReV glitches “did not impact the outcome of the election”, that the petitioners failed to prove the alleged manipulation of results, and that the Supreme Court had dismissed the allegation of the double nomination of Mr Shettima.
On the issue of scoring 25 per cent votes in Abuja, they also argued that the call by the petitioners to nullify the election on that ground would confer a “superior” status on voters in Abuja over other parts of the country.
Pre-hearing and witnesses
The court began prehearing proceedings on the petitions on 8 May.
At the end of the prehearing sessions, which lasted two weeks, parties agreed on the plans for the substantive hearing, which the court approved with some alterations.
Atiku, who planned to call 100 witnesses to prove his case, ended up calling 27.
Mr Tinubu and the APC had indicated their intention to call 39 and 25 witnesses, respectively, in defence of their case.
However, at the trial, Mr Tinubu presented only one witness. The APC did not call witnesses and only adopted Mr Tinubu’s witness.
In his own case, Mr Obi disclosed during prehearing that he planned to call 50 witnesses to prove his case against Mr Tinubu, prompting the court to grant him three weeks to do so.
But at the hearing of the substantive suit, Mr Obi presented only 13 witnesses, while Mr Tinubu, who had promised to call 39 witnesses in defence of his case, ended up calling the sole witness, Opeyemi Bamidele, a Nigerian senator.
Similarly, the APC, which indicated that it was going to call 25 witnesses, ended up not presenting any, and relied on Mr Tinubu’s only witness in arguing its defence.
The APM called only one witness, Aisha Abubakar, the assistant welfare officer of the party. The respondents did not call any witness but drew the court’s attention to the Supreme Court’s decision dismissing the ground upon which the party anchored its petition.
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Publish date : 2023-09-05 11:39:13