Thursday, 18 April, 2024


Supreme Court reserves judgment in Atiku, Obi’s appeals against Tinubu

The Supreme Court has reserved its judgment in the appeals filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) against the election of President Bola Tinubu.

This was after counsel representing the appellants and the respondents had identified and adopted their various processes for and against the appeal.

Justice John Okoro, who led six other justices of the seven-man panel announced that judgment had been reserved. “Judgment is reserved to a date that would be communicated to parties,” he held.

While Atiku, represented by Chief Chris Uche urged the court to allow their separate appeals and nullify Tinubu’s election, all the respondents urged the court to reject the appeal and uphold the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) which affirmed the declaration of Tinubu.

The proceedings began with Atiku’s legal arguments to convince the Court to attach probate value to Tinubu’s academic records he obtained from the Chicago State University (CSU) in the United States.

Atiku built his case on the allegations that the president forged the CSU certificate he submitted to INEC for the 25 February election.

The former president argued that the issue of forgery of a certificate of academic qualification went to the root of Tinubu’s qualification to contest the presidential election.

Although Atiku had made legal efforts to obtain Tinubu’s academic records from the CSU, he was unsuccessful until after the PEPC delivered its judgment.

During proceedings, Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche, sought to tender the academic records released by the CSU along with the deposition of the university’s registrar.

In the deposition, the CSU clearly affirmed that Mr. Tinubu graduated from the university but did not deny or authenticate if the copy of the certificate he submitted to INEC was made by the university.

“We are praying for an order of this honourable court seeking leave to present fresh evidence on appeal based on the depositions on oath from Chicago State University concerning the 2nd respondent (Mr Tinubu).”  Mr Uche told the court that Tinubu’s certificate issue is a “weighty, grave and constitutional” matter, which it must decide.

According to the senior lawyer, the Supreme Court had a duty to critically look at Tinubu’s records and reach a decision devoid of technicality.

But the presiding Justice of the panel, John Okoro, queried the possibility of introducing fresh evidence after the expiration of the 180 days statutorily provided for filing, trial and determination of election petitions. He asked Mr. Uche why he wanted the Supreme Court to overlook constitutional provision to entertain the fresh evidence.

Responding, Uche said the law only compels a tribunal to hear and determine an electoral dispute within 180 days.

He explained that the PEPC could not be likened to a tribunal as it is the court of first instance in a case arising from the presidential election. In addition, he argued that section 233 of the constitution gave the Supreme Court the power to entertain questions about whether a person had been properly elected.

But another member of the panel, Emmanuel Agim, asked Mr. Uche whether the testimony by the CSU registrar concerning the authenticity of Tinubu’s academic records was conducted in a US court. He pointed out that from  Uche’s court filings, the testimony by the CSU registrar was held in Atiku’s lawyer’s law’s office in the US.

“We are dealing with a matter that touches on the national unity of Nigeria,” the justice said, adding that there was no official letter from CSU denying the credibility of the president’s certificate.

In his response, Uche clarified: “There is a slight distinction between proceedings in the US and the UK. In the US, that is how court proceedings are done. The second respondent’s lawyer attended the US proceedings and did not raise any objection as to the venue of the testimony.

“Tinubu was represented by a US lawyer, but he did not object to the proceedings being held in Atiku’s lawyer’s office.”

Uche further explained that depositions were more effective than letters from the CSU authorities regarding the authenticity of Tinubu’s academic records.

Flowing from Justice Agim’s inquiry, the presiding Justice, Okoro posed: “Criminal matters have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt; in this case, there are two conflicting letters from the CSU – one authenticating the president’s certificate and another discrediting it. Which do we rely on?” he asked.

Responding, Uche referred the court to a letter earlier issued to Michael Enahoro-Ebah, a lawyer, who testified for Atiku against Mr. Tinubu at the PEPC in Abuja.

In his submission on the matter, lead counsel to the president, Chief Wole Olanipekun, urged the Supreme Court to dismiss Atiku’s “very unusual application” to tender fresh evidence against Tinubu.

He contended that the fresh evidence was inadmissible on the ground that “the CSU depositions are dormant until the deponent comes to court and testify.”

He pointed out that INEC ought to have been a party at the deposition proceedings in the US.

In his submission concerning the statutory timeframe for hearing and determination of election petitions, Mr Olanipekun said the question of 180 days was clear.

“It is sacrosanct. It cannot be shifted. Therefore, Atiku cannot seek to tender fresh evidence at the Supreme Court. This is an application in wonderland. It has no merit. We urge the court to dismiss. The courts are bound by the law, and the law is to be interpreted as it is,” he said.

On his part, INEC lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, asked the court to dismiss Atiku’s application seeking to tender Tinubu’s academic records.

APC lawyer, Akin Olujinmi said Atiku’s application “lacked merit. It is misconceived and we urge the court to dismiss it. You cannot smuggle in a document into the Supreme Court without first tendering the same at the trial court,” the lawyer added.

In his main argument, the former vice president insisted that the PEPC panel erred in law when it failed to nullify the presidential election on the grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, even when evidence showed that INEC acted in breach of extant laws and regulations guiding the conduct of elections.

He accused the PEPC of reaching its unanimous decision based on gross misconstruction and misrepresentation of provisions of both the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act, 2022.

According to him, “The lower court erred in law when it refused to uphold the mandatoriness of electronic transmission of results for confirmation and verification of final results introduced by the Electoral Act 2022 for transparency and integrity of results in accordance with the principles of the Act.”

He argued among other issues,  that section 64(4) & (5) of the Electoral Act, as well as INEC’s Regulations & Guidelines for the conduct of the election, which he tendered in evidence, made mandatory, the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines for electronic transmission of results of the election directly from the polling units to INEC’s collation system for the verification, confirmation and collation of results before the announcement.–f_87_XW-9-CbgBJhoXEAXYEBITaBhFAgBGFYQEUCgAAAEgaICAFwYFOwMAl1gIgBAigAOCAEIAKMgAQAAAQAIRABIEUCAACAQCAAEACAQCAAgYABQAWAgEAAIDoGKYUACgWECRGREKYEIUCQQEtlQglBUIK4QBFlgBQCI2CgAQAACKwABAWLwGAJASoSCBLqDaAAAgAQCilCoQSemAAcEjZag8ETAAAA.YAAAAAAAAAAA&addtl_consent=1~×161&!9&btvi=7&fsb=1&xpc=HPSSvI7Dq1&p=https%3A//

In another petition, Justice Okoro, leading six other justices dismissed the appeal filed by the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), saying that hearing it would amount to a waste of the precious time of the court.

The APM had in the appeal prayed the court to hold that the PEPC misconceived the material facts before it, when it struck out its undefended petition against Tinubu’s victory.

The party asked the court to hold that the withdrawal of Kabiru Masari from the race, by operation of law, amounted to automatic withdrawal and invalidation of the candidature of Tinubu as the presidential candidate of the APC.

Masari was named the running mate of Tinubu before he was replaced by Vice President Shetima

The APM said in its brief of argument by its counsel that the PEPC wrongly struck out its petition.

The party prayed the court to set aside the decision of the lower court as being misconceived.–f_87_XW-9-CbgBJhoXEAXYEBITaBhFAgBGFYQEUCgAAAEgaICAFwYFOwMAl1gIgBAigAOCAEIAKMgAQAAAQAIRABIEUCAACAQCAAEACAQCAAgYABQAWAgEAAIDoGKYUACgWECRGREKYEIUCQQEtlQglBUIK4QBFlgBQCI2CgAQAACKwABAWLwGAJASoSCBLqDaAAAgAQCilCoQSemAAcEjZag8ETAAAA.YAAAAAAAAAAA&addtl_consent=1~×161&!a&btvi=8&fsb=1&xpc=c9gGogUZ1o&p=https%3A//

APM also argued that the striking out of Masari’s name from its petition and its consequent dismissal on Sept. 6 was in error, as Masari was a necessary party in the petition.

The PEPC had dismissed APM’s petition based on pre- hearing motions filed by INEC, APC and Shettima.

According to the APM, the grounds upon which its petition was predicated was that Tinubu was at the time of the presidential election, not qualified to contest in line with Section 134(1)(a) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The counsel told the court that the PEPC misconceived the material facts and case of his client and wrongly progressed to determine issues not contemplated by the appellant’s petition and erroneously dismissed the petition.

However, efforts by the lawyer to move the appeal were rejected by the panel on the grounds that moving it would amount to wasting the precious time of the court.

Justice Inyang Okoro, the presiding justice, insisted that the appeal be withdrawn since the issue had been decided.–f_87_XW-9-CbgBJhoXEAXYEBITaBhFAgBGFYQEUCgAAAEgaICAFwYFOwMAl1gIgBAigAOCAEIAKMgAQAAAQAIRABIEUCAACAQCAAEACAQCAAgYABQAWAgEAAIDoGKYUACgWECRGREKYEIUCQQEtlQglBUIK4QBFlgBQCI2CgAQAACKwABAWLwGAJASoSCBLqDaAAAgAQCilCoQSemAAcEjZag8ETAAAA.YAAAAAAAAAAA&addtl_consent=1~×161&!b&btvi=9&fsb=1&xpc=ZPni3oy9Ay&p=https%3A//

“We have read your appeal and the issues raised therein.

“You are not asking us to make your candidate the president if your appeal succeeds.

“You just want to state the law and go home, without benefit. We have other appeals that are substantial and withdrawing this appeal will help reduce the workload on us. We have read the appeal and are unanimous that it is a non-issue, having been pronounced upon by this court,’’ Justice Okoro said.

APM’s counsel, though reluctantly,  accepted  and withdrew the appeal on behalf of his client.

All the respondents did not oppose the withdrawal and did not ask for cost. The seven-member panel consequently dismissed the appeal after it was withdrawn by the appellant.

Credit: Daily Sun


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