Aggrieved by the declaration of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, as the winner of the February 25, 2023 presidential election, five other political parties who contended for the seat of power, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), Action Alliance (AA), Action Peoples Party (APP) and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and their candidates have filed petitions before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja to challenge Tinubu’s election.
Each of the cases is distinct with far-reaching implications for the victory of the president-elect.
The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on March 1, declared Tinubu and and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, president-elect and vice president-elect, having scored 8,794,726 votes, being the highest votes cast during the election.
The petitioners are praying the tribunal to annul Tinubu’s election on the grounds that it was conducted in substantial non-compliance with the constitution, the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines for the conduct of the election.
Legal fireworks in the petitioners’ petitions to upturn Tinubu’s election will commence immediately after the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal is empaneled by the president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongbam-Mensen, as required by law.
Action Alliance and Al-Mustapha’s connection
The Action Alliance and its presidential candidate, Solomon David Okanigbuan, in their petition marked CA/PEPC/01/2023, joined INEC, APC, Tinubu and Hamza Al-Mustapha as first to fourth respondents.
The petitioners told the tribunal that INEC unlawfully substituted the name of their candidate with Hamza Al-Mustapha, whom they said is not a member of the party and not sponsored by the party for the February 25 election.
They are praying the tribunal to hold that Tinubu was not validly elected and/or returned as the winner of the presidential election and his declaration as winner and his return void as the second petitioner, Solomon David Okanigbuan, was validly nominated and sponsored by the AA as its presidential candidate at the said election but was unlawfully excluded from the election in flagrant non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022.
They pray for the nullification of Tinubu’s election on the grounds that his election contravenes the Electoral Act, the 1999 Constitution, as amended and INEC guidelines for 2023 general election.
The case of Allied Peoples Party
The second party that filed petition before the tribunal is the Allied Peoples Party (APP), which has Osita Charles Nnadi and Isah Hamisu Kero Dandume as its presidential and vice presidential candidates.
The party joined Tinubu, APC and INEC as respondents.
In its petition numbered CA/PEPC/02/2023, the party claims that Tinubu’s election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices, vote buying, over-voting, falsification/alterations and mutilation of election results, among others, which irregularities substantially affected the outcome of the election, such that Tinubu was not entitled to be returned elected as the president-elect.
The party and its presidential candidate claim that Tinubu was not qualified to stand for the said election, having knowingly supplied false information to INEC in his nomination form, which thereby disqualified him from the election.
They also state that the election and declaration of results made by INEC was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022.
APP, which scored 12,839 votes in the election, said Tinubu submitted to INEC, his form CF001 stating on oath that he was born in 1952 whereas all his educational documents show otherwise.
The party says the president-elect does not meet the educational qualification for election into the office of the president as of the time of his election and that Tinubu did not score the majority of lawful votes cast at the election. It adds that the 8,796,726 votes ascribed to him were a result of corrupt practices, vote buying, over-voting, falsification/alteration and mutilation of results.
They pray the tribunal to hold that the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the election is invalid, null and void.
The challenge from Obi and Labour Party
The Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, filed the third petition challenging Tinubu’s election.
Obi, who came third in the contest, filed his petition at the registry of the court on March 20. In the petition, Obi and his party are the petitioners while INEC, the president-elect, Tinubu, Shettima (the vice president-elect) and the APC are the respondents.
Setting out the grounds for the petition, Obi’s lead counsel, Livy Ozoukwu (SAN), said Tinubu, at the time of the presidential election, was not qualified to contest for election into the office of the president as he was fined the sum of $460,000 for an offence involving dishonesty, namely, narcotics trafficking imposed by United States District Court, Northern District Illinois, Eastern Division in case No. 93C 4483 between the USA verses Funds in three different foreign accounts in the name of Bola Tinubu.
Obi says based on the valid votes cast at the presidential election, he scored the highest number of votes and ought to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election.
The petitioners seek: “An order directing INEC to issue Certificate of Return to the first petitioner (Obi) as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“That, it be determined that the Certificate of Return wrongly issued to the second respondent (Tinubu) by the first respondent (INEC) is null, void and be set aside.” The petitioners further argue that the February 25 election is void on the grounds that it was not conducted substantially in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and the constitution.
Ozoukwu argues that the president-elect “was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election” and urges the tribunal to determine that at the time of the presidential election, on February 25, Tinubu and Shettima were not qualified to contest the election.
He prays the tribunal to determine that all the votes recorded for Tinubu in the election are wasted votes, owing to the non-qualification of the president-elect and the vice president-elect.
“That it be determined that the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu) having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the Presidential Election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on 25 February, 2023.”
Obi and his party, in their petition marked, CA/PEPC/03/2023 equally argued that the February 25 presidential election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provision of Electoral Act,2022 and pray the tribunal to, in the alternative, make, “an order cancelling the election and compelling the 1st respondent (INEC) to conduct a fresh election at which the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu), 3rd respondent (Shettima) and 4th respondent (APC) shall not participate.”
The Allied Peoples Movement’s contention
The fourth petitioners against Tinubu’s election are the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), who joined INEC, APC, Tinubu, Shettima and Kabir Masari as first to fifth respondents.
It is the case of the APM that Tinubu, as of the time of the presidential election, was not qualified to contest as the candidate of the APC by virtue of the provisions of Section 131(c) and 142 of the constitution and Section 35 of the Electoral Act.
The petitioners want the tribunal to hold that the declaration and return of Tinubu as the president-elect by INEC are invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act.
According to the party, Shettima was not qualified to jointly contest with Tinubu for the election, having been purportedly nominated by the APC as its candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District of Borno State for the February 25 National Assembly election.
“As at the time of the replacement of the fifth respondent (Masari) with Shettima, the third respondent, by virtue of the provisions of Section 142 of the 1999 Constitution no longer had right or power to nominate another running mate, having made the first and only nomination allowed by law,” the party submits.
The petitioners want an order nullifying and voiding all the votes scored by Tinubu in the said election in view of his non-qualification as candidate of the APC. Upon the grant of the above prayer, the APM prays for an order nullifying and/or setting aside Tinubu’s return and declaration as the winner of the election, same having been made in violation of the law.
It also asks the tribunal to, upon granting the above prayers, order INEC to arrange and conduct a fresh election within 21 days between two of the remaining candidates that scored the highest number of votes cast, next to Tinubu.
Atiku, PDP say Tinubu wrongly returned
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in their petition, ask the tribunal to annul the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of February 25 presidential election.
In their petition marked CA/PEPC/05/2023, and filed at the tribunal late Monday, March 20, 2023, Atiku and his party alleged that there was substantial non-compliance with the constitution, the Electoral Act and INEC’s guidelines in the conduct of the election.
The petitioners, who allege that INEC failed to abide by its own rules in the conduct of the presidential election, wonder why the chairman of the commission, Professsor Yakubu, was in a hurry to announce the results of the election in the midst of protest.
Atiku and the PDP, in their petition, join INEC, Tinubu and the APC as first to third respondents.
The petitioners state that INEC wrongly returned Tinubu as the winner of the election, allocating to him 8,794,726 votes.
Setting out the grounds of the petition by the petitioners’ lead counsel, Mr Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN), the petitioners say that Tinubu’s election is invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, corrupt practices and that Tinubu was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast in the election.
While arguing that Tinubu was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election, Atiku and the PDP aver that the February 25 presidential election was not conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and other extant laws and that the non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election in that Tinubu ought not to have been declared or returned as the winner of the election.
They specifically argue that the election was not conducted in compliance with the provisions of, “Sections 47(2) and (3), 60(1), (2) and (5), 64(4)(a) and (b), 64(5), (6), (7) and (8), 71 and 73 of the Electoral Act, paragraphs 3.3.0 and 3.4.0 of the first respondent’s published Manual for Election Officials 2023 (“INEC Manual” or “Manual”), and paragraphs 19, 35, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 47, 48, 50, and 62 of the first respondent’s published Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections 2022 (“INEC Regulations” or “Regulations” or “Regulations and Guidelines”).
The petitioners state that: “Several months and weeks leading to the election, the first respondent, through its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had repeatedly assured the general public that the February 2023 general election would be the best election ever, with the guaranteed use of the Bi-Modal Voters’ Accreditation System (‘BVAS’) and real-time and direct uploading of the polling unit results to INEC’s electronic collation system and Results Viewing Portal (‘IReV’) which were technological innovations in the electoral system that would ensure the transparency of the elections against all forms of manipulation.
“Contrary to the undertakings, representations and assurances made by the 1st Respondent, the first respondent proceeded on the 1st day of March 2023 to wrongly return the second respondent as the winner of the election when the outcome (herein being challenged) and the results from the polling units, including the total number of accredited voters in the respective polling units, were yet to be transmitted to the first respondent’s electronic collation system and the first respondent’s Result Viewing Portal (IReV) as stipulated by the Electoral Act, 2022 and the INEC Guidelines and Manuals and expressly guaranteed to the electorate by the first respondent.
“The petitioners shall lead oral and documentary evidence at the hearing in proof of the fact that, the result of the election as announced by the first respondent and especially the votes wrongly allocated to the second respondent do not represent the lawful valid votes cast; and lawful votes were deliberately and massively deducted from the first petitioner’s scores by the first respondent to facilitate the return of the second respondent.”
They state that INEC failed to comply with its own guidelines to transmit results and accreditation data directly and real time to the IReV and its electronic collation system/storage device before the hasty return and announcement of Tinubu as the winner of the election on March 1, 2023 and contend that by the combined provisions of the Electoral Act, the INEC Regulations and Guidelines and the INEC Manual, the votes collated at the polling units are to be electronically transmitted with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) directly and real-time to the INEC electronic collation system and IReV portal.
The petitioners aver that INEC, having set the parameters, did not ensure compliance with the electronic transmission of accreditation data and results in the election to create opportunity for manipulation of figures to the advantage of Tinubu and the APC and added that, they will lead evidence at the hearing to show that there were no technical “glitches” that prevented the upload and transmission of the polling units results and the accreditation data of the presidential election to the electronic collation system and the IReV portal.
They further state that as of 1st March 2023, when INEC returned Tinubu as the winner of the election, the entire results and accreditation data from the polling units had not been transmitted and uploaded to its electronic collation system/storage device, created/acquired for the purpose of electronically collating the results of the election.
According to the petitioners, for more than 18 days after the election, and as of the date of filing their petition, INEC’s IReV portal showed that it had failed to upload the entire accreditation data and polling units results of the presidential election, adding that Section 47(3) of the Electoral Act makes it mandatory for INEC to cancel and reschedule an election in any polling unit where the BVAS or other technological device deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function, “but notwithstanding, the first respondent concluded the said election, purported to collate the result of the election and declared the second respondent wrongly as the winner of the said election without the prescribed electronic transmission of the results of the election at and from the various polling units and the accreditation data from the respective polling units (including the number of accredited voters in the said polling units), to the INEC electronic collation system and to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV).
The petitioners aver that Tinubu failed to score at least one quarter (25 per cent) of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja as mandatorily required by the 1999 Constitution and that INEC ought not have declared Tinubu as the winner of the election.
The petitioners pray against the respondents jointly and severally, “That it may be determined that the second respondent was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast in the election and therefore the declaration and return of the second respondent by the first respondent as the winner of the presidential election conducted on the 25th day of February, 2023 is unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional, undue, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
“That it may be determined that the return of the second respondent by the first respondent was wrongful, unlawful, undue, null and void having not satisfied the requirements of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which mandatorily requires the second respondent to score not less than one quarter (25 per cent) of the lawful votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“That it may be determined that the second respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the said election” and in the alternative, “the first petitioner, having scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the presidential election of Saturday, 25th February, 2023, be returned as the winner of the said election and be sworn in as the duly elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
They also pray for an order directing INEC to conduct a second election (run-off) between Atiku Abubakar and Tinubu and in further alternative, that the election to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on 25th February, 2023 be nullified and a fresh election (re-run) ordered.
Already, all the petitioners have secured the permission of the Presidential Election Petition Court to serve Tinubu with all their processes filed by substituted means as efforts to serve him with their processes proved abortive owing to the tight security around him.