- Atiku, Obi claim victory of the presidential election at the tribunal
- Tinubu prays tribunal to throw out Atiku, Obi’s petitions for lack of merit
- Ezekwesili, others kick as FG dissolves Advertising Standards Panel over “All Eyes on Judiciary” billboards
On February 25, 2023 Nigeria held a presidential election throughout the 36 states and FCT Abuja.
The 2023 presidential election is said to be the tightest ever held since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999.
However, the four major contenders in the election were Bola Ahmed Tinubu of All Progressives Congress, APC; Mr. Peter Obi from Labour Party, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Nevertheless, as the most contested election in Nigerian history, tens of millions of Nigerians especially who were hitherto not concerned about political participation in the country suddenly developed huge and unprecedented political appetite.
As a result of this, millions of them came out en masse in the general elections to decide the fate of a country that has been battered by bad leadership.
Riding on the obidient political philosophy propagated by the Labour Party Presidential candidate, many even went as far as contesting in both the state and Federal Houses of Assembly elections and winning same.
However, the 2023 presidential has remained the most controversial election ever held in Nigerian history.
On March 1, against all the allegations of the electoral manipulation including non transmission of elections through BVAS, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 presidential election.
INEC chairman Yakubu Mahmood declared Tinubu the winner of the election and president-elect Wednesday morning at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Though a total of 18 presidential candidates contested the election held across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, four political parties were seen as major contenders.
Earlier before the declaration of the results, the election was postponed till Sunday in some polling units in different states due to violence, logistical problems, theft of BVAS and other issues.
After collation at state INEC collation centres, the election results were presented by state collation officers for the presidential election (SCOPs) before the INEC chairman at the National Collation Centre.
Prof. Mahmood announced that Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the election with the majority of votes cast in 36 states of Nigeria and the FCT.
A breakdown of the result according to the electoral umpire showed that the APC candidate polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat fellow contenders – Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who polled 6,984,520 votes. Labour Party’s Peter Obi had 6,101,533 votes to come third and candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) Rabiu Kwankwaso with 1,496,687 votes.
Of the 36 states and FCT, Tinubu, Obi, and Atiku won 12 states each while Kwankwaso won only Kano State.
According to the result, the 12 states won by Tinubu are Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Benue, Rivers, Borno, Zamfara, Jigawa, Ondo, Kogi and Niger State.
Atiku of the PDP won Taraba, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Kaduna, Sokoto, Yobe, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Bauchi, Gombe and Katsina.
Obi won the following states; Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Abia, Delta, Edo, FCT, Plateau, Nasarawa, Lagos and Cross River.
However, after the declaration of the results, the three major contenders rejected the election results as declared by the electoral umpire.
The Labour Party candidate, Mr. Peter Obi and his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar headed for Presidential Election Tribunal to contest the election results.
Following the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the president-elect and resultant rejection of the election result, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi on Tuesday, March 21 filed his petitions to the presidential elections tribunal to challenge Bola Tinubu’s victory in the February 25 presidential election.
The petition, jointly filed by Obi and his party, has INEC, Tinubu, Shettima Kashim, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the respondents.
Here are the five prayers Obi and the Labour Party sought in their petition.
Petitioners argue that Mr. Tinubu should not have been eligible to run for the top office, a spokesperson for Mr. Obi’s presidential campaign told the Presidential election Tribunal.
Obi’s lead lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu also argued that the president-elect “was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election.”
25 % in FCT
Because Tinubu was declared winner of the election without securing 25% in the FCT, Obi, and the Labour Party want the tribunal to determine “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 also prayed the court to order the cancellation of the February 25 presidential election.
In addition to the cancellation of the election, the LP candidate asked the court to compel INEC to conduct a fresh election.
Fresh election without Tinubu/Shettima
Obi prayed the tribunal to make an order that will ensure Tinubu and his running mate, Shettima do not participate in the fresh election.
On his own part, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar also asked the Presidential Election Petition Court to declare him Nigeria’s president-elect.
Alternatively, Atiku urged the court to cancel the election and order a fresh election due to alleged irregularities that marred the 25 February poll in thousands of polling units.
These are part of the seven prayers anchored on five grounds in the petition he filed against the victory of the president-elect, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday.
The petition, jointly filed by Atiku and the PDP as co-petitioners, named INEC, Mr Tinubu and the APC as respondents.
Grounds of the petition
Laying four bases for the petition, Atiku and the PDP said Mr Tinubu’s election “is invalid by reason of noncompliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.”
Atiku also argued that INEC’s “failure to electronically transmit the election results in real-time” compromised the outcome of the presidential poll.
He added that the alleged substantial non-compliance with the law affected the result of the election, in that” Mr Tinubu “ought not to have been declared or returned as the winner of the election.”
Atiku further contended that INEC “wrongly returned” Mr Tinubu “as the winner of the election, allocating to him 8,794,726 votes while ascribing to him (Atiku) 6,984520 votes.”
He explained that contrary to INEC Chairman, Mr Yakubu’s repeated assurances in the build-up to the general elections to conduct the best election in Nigeria’s democratic history, the electoral umpire failed to electronically transmit results in real-time from polling units to INEC’s “electronic collation system and Results Viewing Portal (IReV)” using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines.
He said “by reason of the foregoing, there could not have been any valid and lawful collation and announcement of the result of the election under the Electoral Act, without the prior electronic transmission from the polling units to INEC …IReV portal using the BVAS.”
The petitioners said INEC failed to comply with Section 66 of the Electoral Act which is incorporated with Section 134 of the Nigerian constitution. They argue that the law provides for “geographical spread” which must be met by the winner of the election.
Atiku equally premised his petition on the ground that the margin of lead – 1,810,206 votes – was less than the number of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) collected in “the polling units where elections were cancelled and did not hold across the country. ”
Consequently, Atiku argued that INEC’s declaration of Mr Tinubu as the winner of the poll was “hasty, premature and wrongful.”
The petitioners further accused INEC of manipulating votes as Electoral officials “suppressed” Atiku’s votes, crediting Messrs Tinubu and Obi with the said stolen votes.
Mr Tinubu is also said not to have been elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the poll.
The petitioners also said Mr Tinubu at the time of the election was not qualified to vie for the presidency.
In seeking to upturn Mr Tinubu’s victory, Atiku set out seven prayers.
He urged the court to determine that Mr Tinubu was “not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast, and therefore the president-elect’s victory “is unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional…null and void.”
Atiku prayed the court to determine that Mr Tinubu at the time of the election was not qualified to contest the said election.
“That it may be determined that the return of the 2nd Respondent (Mr Tinubu) by the 1st respondent (INEC) was wrongful, unlawful, undue, null and void having not satisfied the requirements of the Electoral Act and constitution…which mandatorily requires” Mr Tinubu “to score bot less than one quarter (25%) of the lawful votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the federal and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
He urged the court to declare him the winner of the presidential election, as he “scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the presidential election.
In the alternative, Atiku asked the court to make an “order directing” INEC “to conduct a second election (run-off) between” him and Mr Tinubu.
“That the election to the office of the President of Nigeria held on 25 February, 2023, be nullified and a fresh election be ordered,” the petitioners prayed.
Concluding the argument and proceedings the Tribunal on August 1 reserved judgement in Atiku Abubakar’s petition challenging President Bola Tinubu’s victory.
Haruna Tsammani who led the five-member panel of the court said on Tuesday that a date for judgement in the suit would be communicated to parties.
Earlier at Tuesday’s proceedings, INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, urged the court to dismiss Atiku’s suit for “lacking in merit.”
In INEC’s final argument, Mr Mahmoud told the court that Atiku “failed to discharge the burden placed on him by law” in proving his allegations against the conduct of the election.
He contended that Atiku’s case centred on alleged “non-compliance with the electoral act and INEC guidelines and regulations” which the petitioner did not substantiate.
The electoral umpire’s lawyer said the deployment of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System machines and INEC Results Viewing (IReV) for the presidential election was “successful.”
“The evidence (before the court) showed that these innovations around accreditation and authentication were successful.
“The information generated by BVAS were stored on the Amazon Web Services (AWS). The evidence before court showed that AWS is the secure and reliable Amazon services across the world,” Mr Mahmoud argued against Atiku’s claim that the IReV portal was compromised by INEC in favour of Mr Tinubu.
Asked by the court to clarify issues around electronic transmission of results and uploading of results on IReV, Mr Mahmoud explained that Atiku and the PDP “contrived in their mind an electronic collation system. The evidence does not support that. There is no such thing.”
He further said that “the glitch which disrupted the real-time upload (of presidential election results from the polling units) only lasted for 4 hours 50 minutes on election day.”
“Second point of disagreement is that this glitch was contrived as a result of human interference. But Atiku failed woefully to establish that there was human interference.
“The evidence before the court showed clearly that the election went well smoothly at the polling units and results were well collated,” Mr Mahmoud told the court.
On the issue of statutory requirement of 25 per cent votes in Abuja, Mr Mahmoud said the argument “is illogical” as it goes against the express provisions of the Constitution.
“The FCT must be treated as if it were a State. We submit that the case for noncompliance has not been made, the FCT argument has to fall on its face,” the lawyer argued, praying the court to “dismiss this petition.”
In Mr Tinubu’s closing argument on Tuesday, his lead lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, said manual collation of the presidential election results did not diminish the credibility of the electoral process.
“Uploading results to IReV whether manually or electronically plays no role in collation of results; it does not add or decrease the number of votes. Collation is physical and manual,” Mr Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said.
He contended that Atiku had “abandoned his petition,”owing to his inability to prove his case.
Mr Olanipekun told the court that Atiku resorted to “attacking” Mr Tinubu’s person instead of proving his allegations.
“The court cannot give to the petitioners what they have not asked in their final written address. It is my submission that Atiku is a meddlesome interloper.”
He told the court that Atiku won a paltry one quarter of the two-thirds of votes in Abuja as stipulated in the constitution.
Drawing the court’s attention to the issue of mode of transmission of results, Mr Olanipekun said a recent judgement of the Court of Appeal in Lagos “affirmed the discretion of INEC to apply any methodology in transmission of results.”
“We urge your Lordships to dismiss this petition,” Mr Olanipekun argued, adding Atiku merely dumped electoral documents on the court without proving his suit against Mr Tinubu.
The APC on its part, urged the court to dismiss Atiku’s petition for lacking in substance.
APC lawyer and ministerial nominee (now Attorney-General and minister of Justice), Lateef Fagbemi, said Atiku’s “witnesses did not dispute the figures (results) reeled out” by INEC.
“No one presented an alternative figure of results to counter INEC’s declaration.”
Mr Fagbemi, a SAN, argued that the issue of 25 per cent votes in FCT “will give overbearing privilege to FCT voters over and above a majority of Nigerians.”
He prayed the court to affirm Mr Tinubu’s victory and dismiss Atiku’s petition for lacking in merit.
While adopting his own final brief of argument, Obi and the LP, through their lawyer, Mr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, argued that there was no glitch during the election but an intentional act to sabotage the outcome of the poll.
Uzoukwu, SAN, while calling for the removal of President Tinubu, insisted that “an election where over 18,088 blurred results were uploaded to INEC’s IReV portal, is certainly a flawed election.”
Meanwhile, all the Respondents in the two cases- INEC, President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima and the All Progressives Congress, APC- through their respective lawyers, prayed the court to dismiss the petitions as grossly lacking in merit.
INEC’s legal team, led by Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, maintained that the presidential election was not only validly conducted, but was done in substantial compliance with all the relevant laws.
The electoral body argued that the petitioners misconstrued and totally misunderstood the purpose of the technology it introduced for the 2023 general elections.
It told the court that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, device was introduced for the authentication and verification of voters and for transmission of results from the polling units to the IReV portal.
INEC’s lawyer said there was evidence to show that the commission went to great length to ensure that the technology functioned as designed.
“The applications used on the BVAS device were developed in-house and tested again and again, both for performance and reliability.
“The intention of the 1st Respondent to conduct a world-class election is clear from the evidence that was placed before this court,” he insisted
He argued that no evidence was presented to establish the allegation that INEC made use of an electronic collation system in any election that was conducted in the country, adding that such a system did not exist.
Mahmoud, SAN, told the court that INEC made use of a “manual collation system,” admitting however that the Commission experienced a technical glitch that lasted over four hours on the day the presidential poll held.
He said it was not true that the glitch was contrived to create an avenue for results of the election to be manipulated.
“The petitioners have failed to establish that there was human interference that led to the said glitch and they have also been unable to prove how the failure to upload results in real time, affected the outcome of the election.”
On the issue of Tinubu’s alleged failure to secure 25 per cent votes in the FCT, INEC’s lawyer accused the petitioners of inviting the court to “adopt an interpretation that will result in absurdity.”
As the nation awaits the tribunal judgement which they said will be communicated to the two parties, another political mantra emerged, urging the tribunal to do the right thing.
This mantra which came to be known as ALL EYES ON JUDICIARY has its billboards scattered in many strategic places in Abuja, Lagos and other major cities in the country.
In response to the mounting of the billboards, the Federal government suspended the Advertising Standards Panel of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria.
The Director-General of the Council, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, conveyed the dissolution of the Panel through a statement issued on Tuesday.
Giving reasons for which the advertisement should not have been approved, the Director-General of ARCON stated in the release:
“The attention of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria has been drawn to the “All Eyes on the Judiciary” advertisements exposed on some billboards across the country. The concepts exposed were not approved by the Advertising Standərds Panel, hence, the Council has directed that all the materials being exposed be brought down immediately and the violators sanctioned.
“The Advertising Standards Panel of the Council also erred in the approval of one of the concepts as the advertisement failed to vet guidelines on the following grounds:
“The cause forming the central theme of the campaign in the advertisement is a matter pending before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. Hence, it’s jus pendis.
“ matter being jus pendis and awaiting judicial pronouncement is, by virtue of the Nigerian legal system, precluded from being a subject of public statement, debate, discussion, advertisement, etc.“The advertisement is controversial and capable of instigating public unrest and breach of public peace.
“The advertisement is considered blackmail against the Nigerian Judiciary, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, and particularly the Honourable Justices of the Tribunal who are expected to discharge their judicial functions without fear or favour over a matter that is currently jus pendis.”
Fadolapo further stated that the Council has temporarily suspended its Director and Deputy Director responsible for Regulations, pending an investigation into the matter.
“Consequently, the Director and Deputy Director, Regulations have also been suspended. The suspension is to enable an unprejudiced investigation of the issue.
“The Advertising Standards Panel Secretariat failing to diligently exercise its function as the gatekeeper of advertising, advertisement, and marketing communications is hereby dissolved,” he said.
Reactions trail the removal of the billboards/Suspension of Advertising council
Expectedly many notable and well meaning Nigerians have continued to show their disaffection over Federal government’s actions
Dr. Mrs Oby Ezekwesili
The Former Minister of Education, Dr Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, has frowned over the removal of “All Eyes On The Judiciary” billboards across the country.
While reacting, the former Education Minister made it known that a digital billboard is so much cheaper than the one that an obviously misguided regulator demolished.
She went further and made it known that her massage to the Nigerian Judiciary is that they constitutionally owe Nigerians absolute judicial independence, transparency and integrity.
Dr Mrs Oby Ezekwesili made this disclosure in a post she made on her verified Twitter handle on Wednesday afternoon.
She wrote, “A Digital Billboard is so much cheaper than one that an obviously misguided regulator demolished.
“So here’s my message to our Nigerian Judiciary that constitutionally owes citizens absolute judicial independence, transparency and integrity:
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
However, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has also condemned the action of the Federal government.
Atiku’s Special Assistant on Public Communications, Phrank Shaibu, in his reaction on Tuesday, said the entire incident reinforced the argument that election cases in court ought to be completed before beneficiaries of questionable elections are inaugurated.
Shaibu in the statement asked how a message like “All Eyes on the Judiciary” would translate to a threat to society, adding that ARCON had already begun acting like the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA) which had built a reputation of denying Nigerians the right to place adverts which the Lagos State government deemed “unfavourable”.
He said the statement at the Senate screening by Dele Alake, that ‘social media would be regulated soon’ was just another evidence that Tinubu had no regard for democratic norms.
The statement reads in part, “The basic principle of social justice is about the people. The advertisers of the bill boards only did what the norm is in civilized climes. It was the agents working to impress an interest that read meanings to that innocuous advert. Otherwise, it is a basic principle that eyes must be on the wheel of justice.
“Eyes must naturally be on the wheel of justice because when justice is delivered, it must be ‘seen’ to have been just! In any case, both Tinubu and the APC are before the same court. It is curious how they find this particular message upsetting. Anyway, even if they pull down the billboards, they can never stop all eyes from being on the judiciary at this historic time.
“Tinubu has, once again, put his dictatorial tendency on public display. How has a simple message that says “all eyes are on the judiciary” suddenly become offensive? This is a clear case of abuse of office and reinforces the argument that court cases ought to be concluded before inauguration so that beneficiaries of fraudulent elections would not be able to manipulate the system in their favour.
“Billboards are used in displaying educational messages. Is there any offence in alerting Nigerians to the fact that all eyes should indeed be on the judiciary?
“In any case, is there any Nigerian that does not know that the judiciary is hearing the case challenging Tinubu’s fraudulent victory? Even the justices themselves are aware that all eyes are on them because of the historic assignment that they are saddled with. If Tinubu had nothing to hide, why would he be afraid of such a message?
“Nigerians can now see what the people of Lagos have been facing all these years where LASAA denies the opposition the use of billboards just to please their master. It has become so bad that Tinubu’s son is the one that has exclusive rights to billboards on the Lekki axis.
“Who can forget that the company where Tinubu’s son enjoys commanding heights admitted to turning off the billboard lights during the #ENDSARS protests? And the only ridiculous explanation for such a dastardly act is that it wasn’t in bad faith.”
“It was ironic that Tinubu claimed to be a democrat and even boasted of funding the June 12 struggle only for him to transform into an intolerant authoritarian after the election.
“It was hypocritical for the same man to be championing democracy in Niger while at the same time denying Nigerians the most basic form of democracy which includes freedom of speech and expression. He needs to be reminded that charity begins at home,” it added.
Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN
A former Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, in his reaction equally stated that there is nothing really illegal about the billboards.
According to him, “As a lawyer, I see nothing offensive about the billboard or the message that it carries. I do not see why the government should take offence about such a billboard, except if there is anything in their conscience that makes it offensive.
“Otherwise, I believe that if anybody says, ‘All eyes on you,’ it is for good because they are expecting you to do the right thing. Therefore, I see nothing wrong with the message of that billboard. I believe those who find the message offensive may think it is putting the judiciary on edge. However, this is truly my opinion.
“Usman Dan Fodio said conscience is an open wound, and only the truth can heal it, so for me, if you work with a clear conscience and somebody says ‘all eyes are on you’, you should be happy and say ‘expect I will deliver on it’. I will not find myself as attacked or antagonized by that.
“But if I have anything to hide and I do not intend to do the right thing, once somebody says ‘all eyes are on me,’ I will get jittery, and worried because what I will deliver will not be the expectation of the right- thinking members of the society. That is why I am worried the government is worried about that message”