Supreme Court reserves judgments in Atiku, Obi’s petitions against Tinubu’s election

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…Dismisses APM’s appeal

The Supreme Court on Monday, reserved judgments in the appeals filed by the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar and that of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi
challenging the declaration of President Bola Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.

Atiku and Obi separately attacked the judgments of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), which dismissed their petitions instituted against the conduct of the 2023 presidential election and its outcome.

A 7-member panel of Justices of the Apex Court, headed by Justice I John nyang Okoro reserved judgments in the appeals to a date that would be communicated to parties after adoption of the processes filed in the matter.

At Monday’s proceedings, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) who led the legal team of Atiku and PDP informed the court of an interlocutory application seeking the leave of the court to present fresh evidence in the appeal.

The fresh evidence Atiku sought to tender are the academic records of Tinubu, which were handed over to him by the Chicago State University (CSU) on October 2, 2023.

The 32-page document was released to the former Vice President on the orders of Judge Nancy Maldonado of the District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division, Illinois, United States of America.

The US court had ordered the CSU to release the said documents to Atiku despite Tinubu’s objection because the court was convinced that it would help Atiku establish his allegation of forgery and lying on oath against Tinubu.

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However, one of the Justices on the panel, Justice Emmanuel Agim told Atiku’s lead counsel that the deposition which he sought to tender as evidence was done in the chamber of lawyer to Atiku and not in the court as required by law.

Seeking further clarification, Justice Agim said, “I expected the College to write disclaiming the documents in dispute. Does a stenographer has the legal authority to administer oath. We are dealing with a matter that touches on the national interest of this country”.

In his response, Uche submitted that the legal system in the United States is different from that of English legal system which is practiced in Nigeria and confirmed that the depositions were made in the law chambers of Atiku’s American lawyer, with representation by Tinubu’s American lawyers.

He insisted that there was no conflicts or dispute over the legality of the depositions.

Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) raised an objection to the admissibility of the depositions saying such depositions has to be adopted by the individual that deposed to it before it can be admitted as evidence before a court.

In response, Uche argued that such is not the practice in foreign proceedings and clarified that the depositions was not based on a court order to clarify the discrepancies observed in the communication by the Chicago State University.

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The presiding Justice, Justice Okoro observed that the issue of conflicting documents from the same institution is a serious criminal act which ought to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

After hearing the appellants’ motion to admit fresh evidence and the objections by the respondents, the court directed parties to adopt their briefs of arguments on the substantive appeal and thereafter reserved judgment to a date that would be communicated to parties.

Abubakar Mahmoud, Chief Olanipekun and Chief Akin Olujimi, all SAN, who represented INEC, Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC), listed as 1st to 3rd respondents had, in their preliminary objections urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit and misconceived.

In the same vein, the Apex Court also reserved judgment in the joint appeal filed by Obi and the Labour Party challenging the victory of Tinubu at the February 25 presidential election.

The court announced the reservation of the judgment after parties adopted their written addresses in the appeal.

While the lead counsel to Obi and his party, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) prayed the Apex Court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court, Abubakar Mahmoud, Olanipekun and Olujimi, respresenting INEC, Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima and the APC, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.

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In another development, the Apex Court on Monday, dismissed the appeal brought before it by the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) against the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) delivered on September 6.

The court dismissed the appeal following an application for its withdrawal by APM’s lead counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN).

APM had argued that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the February 25 presidential election, having violated the provisions of Section 142 (1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

The party also prayed for a declaration that the return of Tinubu by the INEC, as the President elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is null,void of no legal effect whatsoever.

That the withdrawal of the 5th respondent (Kabiru Masari), as Vice Presidential candidate to Tinubu by the operations of the law amounted to automatic withdrawal and invalidation of the candidate of the APC and asked for an order nullifying and voiding all votes scored by APC in the Presidential Election of February 25.

The party also applied for an order directing INEC to return the candidate with the second highest votes at the election as the winner of the presidential election.

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