Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi and his party on Tuesday approached the apex court to express their grievances against the judgment of the presidential election tribunal which affirmed the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The appeal predicated upon 51 grounds is alleging that the entire decision of the lower tribunal was “perverse” in its entirety except in the rulings in its favour.
A five-member panel of justices of the Presidential Election Petition Court had in a consolidated judgments delivered dismissed all three petitions filed against the February 25 presidential election for lacking in merit.
Specifically, the panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani held that the appellants failed to prove allegations of irregularities, malpractices, corrupt practices as well as non qualification of Tinubu.
But, Obi and LP in their Notice of Appeal filed on September 19, faulted the judgment of the tribunal for being against the weight of evidence adduced by the appellants.
The appellants through their lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, told the apex court that, “the learned Justices of the Court below erred in law and thereby reached a wrong conclusion when they found and held they did not in their petition “specified the particular polling units where the alleged irregularities and malpractices occurred, or specified the
figures of the votes or scores which they alleged have been suppressed, deflated
The appellants submitted that the details of the polling units were contained
in the Spreadsheets and Forensic Analysis Reports which they have incorporated and made part of their pleadings by reference.
In another ground of the appeal, Obi and LP argued that the striking out of certain paragraphs of their petition by the Court below amounts to a blatant denial of their right to fair hearing and
occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.
Similarly, the appellants argued that the tribunal was wrong when it struck out the witness statements on oath of 10 out of the 13 witnesses called by the Petitioners on the ground that the statements were filed after the expiration of the period of 21 days prescribed by the Constitution.
According to Obi and LP, the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal which the PEPC cited in support of the decision do not apply to the facts of this case, adding that in coming to the above decision, the tribunal refused to follow its previous decisions in many cases, to the extent that a subpoenaed witness need not file his statement alongside the petition and any such statement filed after the time allowed for filing the petition is competent and valid.
Responding to the position of the tribunal that they didn’t call enough witnesses to prove allegations of corrupt practices and other irregularities, it is the claim of Obi and LP that the court below overlooked the fact that the petition ought to be read as a
whole to discover the complaint or grouse of the appellants.
“The Court below failed to take into account that the Appellants listed the
States and specific areas complained about in the Petition.
“The Appellants also tendered documents in satisfaction of Section 137 of the Electoral Act 2022”.
On the ruling by the tribunal that failure of the appellants to call witnesses from the polling units, wards or
other places where irregularities and
malpractices are alleged to have occurred were fatal to their case, the appellants are claiming that the issue of non-compliance by the INEC
to its laws, guidelines and relevant statutes is a universal complaint because it is an infraction against the Nigerian people and the Nigerian State.
On the issue of technology in the conduct of the 2023 general elections, it is the submission of Obi and LP that the tribunal erroneously overlooked the fact that the use of technology in
the conduct of the poll was pivotal to the integrity/credibility and transparency of the election.
They submitted that contrary to the decision of the tribunal, the use of BVAS to transmit the election results to IReV under the present legal regime governed by the Electoral Act 2022 is mandatory and not discretionary.
On the issue of Tinubu’s qualification, Obi and LP argued that the tribunal erred in law when it declined jurisdiction to determine the issue of disqualification based on the alleged double-nomination of his Vice-President.
The argued that the tribunal was wrong in holding that the appellants did not prove their case of double-nomination of the Vice-President (Kashim Shettima) because the law and evidence tendered in the Court did not support that conclusion.
They further claimed that the tribunal misapplied the provisions of Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) when it reasoned and concluded that the Tinubu was not disqualified from contesting the presidential election based on the forfeiture orders made against him by the US District Court.
According to them, the tribunal wrongly read the provisions of Section 137(1)(e) of the Constitution (which is a different and independent provision) together with Section 137(1)(d) of the Constitution and concluded that there is no evidence that the 2nd Respondent had been arrested, charged and convicted by a Court of Law to warrant his disqualification from contesting the election.
The appellants further faulted the decision of the tribunal that a winner of the Presidential Election does not need to score at least 25% of the votes cast in the FCT, Abuja, under Section 134(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
It is complained that the PEPC ought not to have relied on the Preamble to the Constitution to interpret the provision because the provision is clear and unambiguous. The law is that the Preamble in an enactment (including the Constitution) can only be resorted to in order to “clarify any ambiguity in the words used in the enacting part”; and it “cannot be used to give a different meaning to the clear wording of a provision.”
They also contended that the PEPC introduced and relied on extraneous matters/considerations in its interpretation of Section 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) because the issue before the Court was not whether or not the FCT has a “special status” over other States; or whether or not every citizen of Nigeria has the equality of vote; or whether or not the right of every such citizen to elect their President whose policies are supposed to and will affect all of them equally regardless of which part of the country they reside or live” as erroneously invented by the Court below.