The Supreme Court yesterday reserved judgment on the appeals of both the candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr. Peter Obi and that of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, filed to challenge the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
This was as a seven-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Inyang Okoro, okayed the matters of both parties for judgment after they all adopted their briefs of argument.
Other members of the apex court panel that heard the matter, were; Justices Uwani Abba-Aji, Lawal Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Abubakar Tijjani and Emmanuel Akomaye Agim.
While Obi and the LP, through their lawyers led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, urged the court to uphold the appeal and set aside the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, that dismissed their petition, Atiku Abubakar sought the nullification of the election of President Bola Tinubu over allegations of certificate forgery amongst other claims.
Responding to the appeals of the Labour Party and its presidential candidate through their respective lawyers, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, President Bola Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, prayed the court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.
The panel however said it would communicate the judgment date to all the parties.
Recall that Obi, who came third in the February 25 election, had in his 51 grounds of appeal, maintained that the PEPC panel erred in law and thereby reached a wrong conclusion when it dismissed his petition.
Obi alleged that the panel wrongly evaluated the proof of evidence he adduced before it and occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice when it held that he did not specify polling units where irregularities occurred during the election. He and the LP further faulted the PEPC for dismissing their case on the premise that they did not specify the figures of votes or scores that were allegedly suppressed or inflated in favour of President Tinubu and the APC.
While accusing the lower court of breaching his right to a fair hearing, Obi insisted that evidence of his witnesses was wrongly dismissed as incompetent and told the apex court that the panel unjustly dismissed his allegation that INEC uploaded 18, 088 blurred results on its IReV portal.
More so, Obi, alleged that the lower court ignored his allegation that certified true copies of documents that INEC issued to his legal team, comprised of 8, 123 blurred results that contained blank A4 papers, pictures and images of unknown persons, purporting the same to be the CTC of polling units results of the presidential election.
Obi further argued that it was wrong for the lower court to rely on the legal principle of estoppel to dismiss his contention that INEC bypassed its regulations when it refused to electronically transmit the results of the election from polling units to the IReV.
“The learned justices of the court below erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when they held and concluded that he failed to establish the allegation of corrupt practices and over-voting,” Obi added.
“The petitioners addicted credible and substantial evidence, both oral and documentary, that proved substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 by the Respondents in the conduct of the election.
“The court below overlooked that the Respondents failed to disprove the evidence of substantial non-compliance adduced by the petitioners,” the Appellants stated, adding that the panel wrongfully dismissed the issue of double nomination that was raised against Tinubu’s Vice President, Kashim Shettima.
Likewise, Obi insisted that the PEPC overlooked evidence that established that President Tinubu was previously indicted and fined $460,000 in the USA over his involvement in a drug-related case.
“Imposing a fine is not limited to a criminal conviction, as the word, in law, includes a civil forfeiture,” the LP presidential candidate argued in his appeal.
Meanwhile, responding to the PDP candidate’s appeal during hearing on Monday, President Tinubu urged the court not to admit Atiku’s leave to present his certificate that was released to the candidate of the PDP by the Chicago State University, CSU.
Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, argued that the foreign depositions that Atiku relied on to apply for the certificate to be admitted in evidence, was done in a private law chamber in the United States of America, USA.
He further argued that the requisite condition precedent was not met by the Applicants to enable the apex court to be able to admit the documents in evidence.
“In the USA, we have their rules, this depositions are not even admissible in their own courts! We have highlighted those rules in our counter affidavit.
“My lords, this is aside from the fact that the depositions were not done in the court, but in private chambers,” Olanipekun added.
More so, he argued that the 180 days period allowed for the hearing of the petition that Atiku and his party filed to nullify the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, had since elapsed.
He said it would therefore be wrong for the apex court to admit a fresh evidence at the stage of appeal, adding that Atiku ought to have joined the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as an interested party in the US proceedings.
“The Court of Appeal is a tribunal. The First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 as well as section 285 (13) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, is very clear.
“They merely went on a fishing expedition in the US. The evidence they are seeking to tender is not at large. It cannot be compartmentalize in any where.
“Even Alice in Wonderland knew where she was going. At least she was told where she was going.
“My Lords, this is an application that we believe is in Wonderland. It has no merit.
“The courts are bound by the law. The law is to be interpreted as it is and not as it ought to be,” Tinubu’s lawyer argued.
While INEC, through its lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, urged the court to reject Atiku’s plea to be allowed to tender the CSU certificate, insisting that the time allowed for hearing of the petition had expired, counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Akinola Olujimi, SAN, argued that Atiku’s application lacked merit and ought to be dismissed as he contended that the requirement of the law was that there must be an order of a court in Nigeria before the CSU could be approached to release the certificate.
“Order 20 Rules 6 and 7 of FHC Rules, made provision for obtaining of depositions from foreign jurisdictions.
“They omitted that very fundamental step,” Olujimi, SAN, argued.
Meanwhile, counsel to Atiku and the PDP, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, argued that the apex court, as the custodian of the Constitution, should overlook technicalities and do justice in the matter by admitting the fresh evidence stating that the fact that the 180 days had elapsed should not tie the hands of the court.
Uche, SAN, also told the court that contrary to the position of the Respondents, the said foreign depositions were made in the Chambers because it was a venue that was agreed upon by parties and approved by the court.
He added that the evidence obtained confirmed that the certificate that Tinubu presented to INEC, did not emante from the University.
Similarly, while Uche, SAN, urged the court to uphold the substantive appeal and nullify the presidential election, all the respondents prayed the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC.