Presidential Election Court Throws Out Peter Obi’s Petition
Written by AIGBOKHAEBHO OKHUELEIGBE on September 7, 2023
It is the end of the road for the Labour Party and Peter Obi at least at the court of first instance which on Wednesday dismissed his petition challenging the outcome of the 2023 presidential election
The court did not just dismiss the petition, none of the issues for determination was determined in favor of the popular Labour Party candidate.
Now these are what was decided by the court on Wednesday in the issues joined by the parties
1. Non compliance: on this issue, Obi had argued that there was no transmission of results as set down in the INEC guidelines and manual for the presidential election and as such this amounted to non- compliance. The court however was of the opinion that failure to e-transmit result is not not enough to challenge an election. Justice Haruna Tsammani who read the judgement affirmed the right of INEC to issue guidelines and manuals in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act, it is also at liberty to determine the procedure of how its election will be conducted. E-transmission of results was an express provision in the INEC guidelines, but according to Justice Tsammani, manuals and guidelines cannot supersede the express provisions of the Electoral Act and it is only a contravention of the Act that can be a basis of an election petition. Justice Tsammani held that what the law provides for is physical collation of results and that transmission of results using the BVAS to IRev is simply to afford the public the opportunity to view the polling unit results on Election Day 2. On whether Bola Tinubu was qualified to contest over allegation that he was fined on a narcotics related case, the Presidential Election Petition Court upheld the defence by Tinubu that he was not convicted and that the $460,000 narcotics fine was a civil matter. Specific reference was made to the fact that checks on the criminal record of Tinubu in the National Crime Information Centre NCIS which is the repository of data of all those linked to criminal activities in the United States, turned out negative. On whether forfeiture does not amount to a conviction, Justice Tsammani held the view that forfeiture is a unique civil remedy not necessarily requiring conviction. He maintained that what the Nigerian constitution in section 137 contemplates is sentence or fine that flows from a conviction proceeding from a criminal trial. In the opinion of the learned justices of the court, Obi’s ground of disqualification of Tinubu based on the fine of $460,000 does not qualify as a sentence of fine and dishonesty as spelt out in section 137 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution 3. On the issue that the election was marred by corrupt practices with specific reference to manipulation of results due to failure to transmit, the court held that the petitioner failed to disclose specific particulars where such took place, noting in its earlier ruling that the pleadings were vague, generic and bereft of supporting materials 4. On the issue of whether Tinubu should have been declared winner having not scored 25 percent votes in the FCT, the court simply held the view that the framers of the constitution did not contemplate the FCT to be given any special status. Rather that the FCT be merely treated as a state in a presidential election, adding that if it thought differently, it would have been expressly stated as such in the constitution
Before reaching these conclusions, the court had struck out the testimonies of 10 out of 13 witnesses of Obi on the grounds that their witness statements were not uploaded as mandatorily required in paragraph 4 of the 1st schedule to the electoral act. Among the witness statements was that of the Labour Party’s star witness Clarita Ogar, who claimed to be an employee of Amazon Web Services (AWS)
She was the one who testified and tendered a report claiming that there was no glitch in the cloud services that hosted INEC l-rev servers for the 2023 Presidential Election, in an attempt to discredit INEC’s claim of technical glitches which affect uploads of election results
The court found that the technical report submitted by Ogar to back up her claims was not hers, but something she downloaded from the internet
Obi had called a total of 13 witnesses earlier indicating that he would call 50.
By the court’s judgment, 10 of the 13 witnesses have been deemed incompetent and their testimonies dismissed