By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, has commenced the delivery of judgement on the petition the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, filed to nullify the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The panel further stressed that though all the three cases challenging President Tinubu’s election were consolidated, the petitions will however maintain their separate identities.
Whereas the petition by the Labour Party and its candidate in the presidential election that held on February 25, Peter Obi, was called first, however, the panel, kick-started its verdict with that of the APM.
Cited as 1st to 5th defendants in APM’s petition marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, are the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and Mr. Kabiru Masari.
During the hearing, while the petitioner, through its lawyer, Mr. Andrew Malgwi, SAN, urged the court to sack Tinubu and withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to him by INEC, on the other hand, all the Defendants prayed the court to dismiss the case for want of competence.
President Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, maintained that the petition the APM lodged against him, lacked merit.
He argued that the sole issue the party relied upon to seek his sack from office, which bordered on allegation that his Vice President, Shettima, was nominated twice by the APC for different elective positions, had already been decided by the supreme Court.
President Tinubu argued that APM’s petition did not only fail to disclose a reasonably cause of action against him, but was equally bereft of substance.
Whereas APC told the court that Tinubu’s nomination and eligibility to contest the presidential election that held on February 25, was without fault, on its part, INEC, threw its weight behind the outcome of the poll.
After it had listened to all the parties, the Justice Tsammani-led panel said it would communicate the judgement date to them.
It will be recalled that the APM closed its case on June 21, after its lone witness testified before the court.
Specifically, APM, in its petition, contended that the withdrawal of Mr. Masari, who was initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC, invalidated Tinubu’s candidacy in view of Section 131(c) and 142 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The party argued that there was a gap of about three weeks between the period that Masari, who was listed as the 5th Respondent in the petition, expressed intention to withdraw, the actual withdrawal of his purported nomination, and the time Tinubu purportedly replaced him with Senator Shettima.
It further argued that Tinubu’s candidature had elapsed as at the time he nominated Shettima as Masari’s replacement.
According to the petitioner, as at the time Tinubu announced Shettima as the Vice Presidential candidate, “he was no longer in a position, constitutionally, to nominate a running mate since he had ceased to be a presidential candidate of the 2nd Respondent having regards to the provisions of section 142 of the 1999 Constitution”.
More so, APM, contended that Masari’s initial nomination activated the joint ticket principle enshrined in the Constitution, stressing that his subsequent withdrawal invalidated the said joint ticket.
It, therefore, prayed the court to declare that Shettima was not qualified to contest as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC as at February 25 when the election was conducted by INEC having violated the provisions the of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
“An order nullifying and voiding all the votes scored by Tinubu in the presidential election in view of his non-qualification as a candidate of the APC”.
As well as an order to set aside the Certificate of Return that was issued to the President by INEC.
The court had on May 30, suspended further proceedings in the matter after counsel to President Tinubu, Chief Olanipekun, SAN, drew its attention to a judgement of the Supreme Court which he said settled the issue the APM raised in its petition.
Chief Olanipekun, SAN, maintained that an appeal the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, filed against President Tinubu, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court, bordered on the legality or otherwise of his client’s nomination to contest the election by the APC.
He argued that the said judgement of the apex court touched on the substance of APM’s petition.