Friday 13 October 2023

Tinubu To Supreme Court: Obi's Appeal Is Entertainment, A Jamboree, Dismiss It


President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima have said the petition filed against the outcome of the last presidential election by the Labour Party (LP) and its candidate, Peter Obi was a jamboree intended mainly for media entertainment.

They urged the Supreme Court to reject the petition and dismiss the appeal filed by Obi and the LP against the September 6, judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) which earlier dismissed the petition for being unmeritorious.

Tinubu and Shettima said this in the joint respondents’ brief filed by their team of lawyers, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN). 

They said: “We urge the Supreme Court to dismiss this petition which, if considered from every angle, is lacking in merit, substance and good faith.

“Be it noted that unlike previous election petitions over which this honourable court has presided (in time past) and made far-reaching pronouncements on diverse issues, including but not limited to ballot box snatching, vote buying, voters’ intimidation, interference by the military, thuggery, ballot stuffing, violence, disenfranchisement, non-recording of votes in form EC8A, which is the building block or the base of the pyramid, and such other electoral vices; this appeal arising from a dismissed petition, the main grouse of which is that, while the presidential election was peacefully conducted all over the country, and results of elections carefully and accurately recorded in the various form EC8As, some unidentified and unspecified results, even in the appellants’ brief were not uploaded electronically to the IREV portal.

“The other very remote contention is that the 2nd respondent did not score 25 percent of the votes recorded at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“With much respect to the appellants, the petition is more of a fishing expedition; much more of evocation of thunder without dews.

“In short, the entire petition was nothing, but a jamboree of sort, which was prosecuted more in the media than in the courtroom, and the lower court, being a court of law and not of sentiments, dutifully threw away their petition after a painstaking consideration of same.”

They added: “We submit that the lower court (PEPC) rightly held that the appellants (Obi and LP), as petitioners before it, failed to prove their allegations of non-compliance and corrupt practices as required by law.”

Tinubu and Shettima, who are listed as the 2nd and 3rd respondents in the appeal before the Supreme Court, argued that the PEPC was right to have struck some paragraphs of the petition and the petitioners’ replies to the respondents’ replies with which they (petitioners) had attempted to amend their case in violation of the provisional of Section 16(1)(a) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022.

They stated that the PEPC took the right decision in striking out the written statements of 10 out of the 13 witnesses called by the petitioners and expunging their evidence from the court’s records on the grounds that the statements were not filed along with the petition as required.

On the appellants’ claim that Shettima had the double nomination, both respondents urged the court to reaffirm its earlier judgment on the issue in the case marked: SC/CV/502/2023 – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) v. INEC & 3 others delivered on May 26, 2023.

“In a failed attempt at distinguishing the said decision of this honourable court (in the PDP v. INEC & 3 others case), the appellants have argued that the judgment emanated from a pre-election matter and that apart from the findings on locus standi, the other points on the substance were made in the supporting judgment.

“In all fairness to them, they have not argued that the concurring judgments are not a part of the judgment or that the facts in PDP v. INEC are any different from the facts of this case.

“This honourable court has reiterated the binding nature of a concurring judgment in a plethora of its decisions.”

They argued that the whole issue about Shettima’s nomination as the vice presidential candidate is entirely an intra-party issue in respect of which the PEPC rightly held that it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain because Obi and the LP lacked the locus to validly raise.

The 2nd and 3rd respondents described the introduction of the US forfeiture case in the petition as a failed attempt to embarrass Tinubu and urged the Supreme Court to affirm the tribunal’s finding on this issue that the petitioners failed to prove their claim.

On the argument by Obi and the LP that INEC failed to comply with relevant laws by not transmitting results electronically, they urged the court to also affirm the well-considered position of the PEPC on this issue.

[b]“A major basis for appellants’ allegation of non-compliance with respect to the presidential election of the 25th February 2023, is their complaint that the results of the election were not electronically transmitted to the IREV in real time (not that it was not transmitted at all) and that the 1st respondent did not ensure that the results were collated on the IREV.

“It was their submission before the lower court that the result ought to have been collated electronically on the IREV, and that omitting to do this automatically nullified the result of the election.

“We respectfully submit that by all extant relevant laws, INEC has/had the prerogative to determine the mode and manner for the transmission of election results and the lower court was perfectly in order when it so held.

“The lower court, in deciding the issue, took a painstaking consideration of the binding and unappealed judgment of the Federal High Court, per Nwite, J., in FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022 – Labour Party v. Independent National Electoral Commission, delivered on 23 January 2023, which was tendered before it and admitted as Exhibit X1.”[/b]

For ease of reference, the question for determination submitted by the Labour Party in the originating summons is as follows: ‘Whether having regard to combined effect of Section 47(2), 50(2), 60(5) and 62(1)(2) and other relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 the Respondent can still insist on manual collation of results in the forthcoming general election.’

“Declaratory reliefs were subsequently sought in line with the main question for determination. After considering the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, the Regulations and Guidelines, as well as the Manuals, the learned trial judge held as follows: ‘Now, a close reading of section 50(2) has provided for voting and transmission of results, to be done in accordance with the procedure to be determined by the commission (INEC)…’

In praying for the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the decision of the PEPC, which dismissed the petition by Obi and the LP, Tinubu and Shettima have a summary of how the PEPC arrived at its decision.

“At trial, the appellants called 13 witnesses. Of the 13 witnesses, only three had their witness statements frontloaded with the petition as prescribed under and by virtue of the Electoral Act and consistent judicial authorities.

“The other 10 witnesses, who though are not adverse witnesses, were purportedly subpoenaed and their witness statements trusted on the lower court and parties, mid-way into the proceedings.

“These compelled the counsel for the respondents to lead a line of objections, challenging the competence of the subpoenaed witnesses.

“The court deferred its determination of the said objections, while parties led evidence in support of their respective positions on the merit of the petition before the court. Throughout, the appellants fumed about INEC’s inability to electronically transmit and collate the results in real-time on the IREV.

“They did not bother to show how this state of affairs had affected their votes or the election, whether substantially or otherwise.

“In fact, they were unable to tender even a singular copy of the polling unit result given to their polling agents, in which case, to show any form of discrepancy between the collated scores and the scores entered at the respective polling units, which had been admitted by their witnesses as bearing the correct statement of affairs at the election. It is also worth stating that the appellants won the election in 12 states and the FCT.

“Surprisingly, they challenged the results of the election in the states where they won, as well as, 12 other states won by the presidential candidate of the PDP. As stated earlier, it was the presidential candidate of the PIP that came second in the election.

“Among the reliefs sought by the petitioners was/is that the 1st petitioner be declared the winner of the election; yet, he only won in 12 states, and scored 24 percent of the votes cast in 15 states and the FCT,

“In delivering its judgment, the lower court expectedly struck out the vague and nebulous paragraphs of the petition, while also striking out the witness statements of the purportedly subpoenaed witnesses.

“Instructively, however, the lower court, appreciating that it is not a court of final instance, proceeded to determine the petition on its merit, while itemizing several monumental failures of the petitioners to provide any evidence in support of their much-touted case.

“While affirming the election and declaration of the 2nd respondent at the referenced presidential election, the lower court also found that the appellants did not prove any of their allegations on the requisite standards of proof.

“After holding itself bound by the preceding decisions on the subject, the court also identified that contrary to the appellants’ campaign, there was nothing in the Electoral Act which subjects/subjected the validity of an election to the success or otherwise of an upload to the IREV portal, while reiterating the appellants’ own witnesses’ admission that the IREV is not a collation centre.

“The court also laid bare the failure of the appellants who claimed to be winners of the election, to statistically demonstrate the same to the court by supplying the total number of votes from which they sought a declaration from the court.

“In short, the entire petition was nothing but a jamboree of sorts, which was prosecuted more in the media than in the courtroom, and the lower court, being a court of law and not of sentiments, dutifully threw away their petition after a painstaking consideration of same.

“It is against the well-considered judgment of the lower court that the appellants have brought this appeal.”