PEPC Rubbishes Peter Obi, LP’s Petition Against Tinubu, Says Suit ‘Unmeritorious’

VOICE AIR MEDIA

THE Presidential Election Petition Court has struck out the petition filed by Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP) against President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.

The PEPC dismissed the petition on Wednesday, declaring it as incompetent.

VAM had reported that Obi prayed the court to declare him as the candidate that secured the majority of the lawful votes cast with the required constitutional spread of not less than 25% of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the states of the federation, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

He pleaded with the court to order a fresh poll, with the exclusion of both Tinubu and the APC, by virtue of their non-qualification to participate in the election.

Respondents in the petition are the Independent National Electoral Commission, President Bola Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

On March 1, INEC announced Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election contested by 18 candidates.

It declared that Tinubu got a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party who got a total of 6,984,520 votes and Obi who came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes.

However, on Wednesday, the court said the petitioners “failed to specify the particular polling units and specific places where electoral malpractice occurred”.

Justice Abba Mohammed, one of the members of the tribunal’s five-member panel, said the “petitioners failed to specify the anomalies, the places where the anomalies occurred” as alleged.

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It said the petitioners also failed to specify where overvoting occurred and the margin of lead of who won.

According to the tribunal, they also failed to show the polling units where their votes were reduced.

The Labour Party and Obi alleged that INEC reduced their scores and added them to APC votes. But the court said the petitioners failed to supply particulars of what they actually scored before the said reductions, nor did they supply the polling units where such happened.

The petitioners did not state the lawful figures they claimed they won, the court held.

It said they merely made general statements of irregularities and said they would rely on spreadsheets, inspection reports and forensic analysis, which were not attached to their petition.

The court held that allegations must be specific and contain particulars of material facts.

It held that the petition for overvoting was vague and therefore struck out.

While highlighting a claim by the respondents that Obi’s petition only alleged that there were widespread irregularities without giving the particulars and the polling units, Justice Mohammed held that in a presidential election held in 176,866 polling units in 774 Local Government Areas, it would be improper not to specify where there were irregularities.

According to him, the petitioners only made generic allegations.

In the case of Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara and some other states where the petitioners alleged that votes recorded for the APC exceeded the number of votes in those states, the court said the petitioners failed to prove the allegations.

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As regards paragraph 79 where there were allegations of corrupt practices, the court said it should be noted that not every ground of non-compliance can be termed as corrupt practices.

It said the petitioners also failed to prove allegations of cases of massive thumbprint, and thuggery, among others.

“Those specific allegations should have been shown in the pleadings,” the court said.

It said the petitioner expected the respondents to respond to the allegations when the particulars of the allegations were not stated.

The court described the respondents’ objection to Peter Obi’s membership of the Labour Party as misconceived.

“Only a political party sponsoring a candidate knows who its members are,” Justice Abba Mohammed

President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima had contended the locus standi to institute the petition on the grounds that Peter Obi only joined the LP a few days before the election instead of the mandatory 30 days.

However, the court held that it was not within the rights of Tinubu and Shettima to challenge Obi’s candidacy.

“The issue of membership of a political party is an internal party affair,” Justice Mohammed said.

The court rejected 10 out of the 13 witnesses presented by the petitioners and held that the reports of the witnesses presented by the petitioners were incompetent and incoherent and therefore, their reports and documents tendered were struck out.

The court said once the 21-day window allowed for the filing of an election petition expires, its content cannot be amended.

The petitioners also argued that Tinubu was not legally qualified to contest the election, alleging that he was previously convicted and fined the sum of $460,000.00 by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483, for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.

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With regard to that, the court said there were no records of Tinubu’s arrest in the US.

Regarding the allegations, the court said Tinubu still enjoyed unimpeded access to the US so it was discountenanced.

The court held that the petitioners failed to show that Tinubu was charged, fined, found guilty or sentenced to jail for the alleged offence relating to drug trafficking.

On the allegation that INEC was required to transmit the election results from the polling units electronically, the court held that there is no requirement for INEC to electronically transmit the results of the election.

On whether Tinubu scored the majority of the lawful votes cast with the required constitutional spread of not less than 25% of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the states of the federation, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the court in its ruling on Wednesday declared it as irrelevant.

It agreed with the argument of the respondent that “the FCT does not enjoy a special status, that Abuja is inhabited by Nigerians and that Abuja does not enjoy any special privilege.”

“It was observed as irrelevant,” it held.

It also held that Tinubu and Shettima were qualified to contest the February presidential election.

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