At Last, Tinubu Survives Post-Election Legal Battles, Sits Firm on Presidential Seat
As Supreme Court Verdict Frees Him from Atiku, Obi Grips
“The appeal is devoid of any merit and it is accordingly dismissed. The judgment of the court below is hereby affirmed”.
This was the unanimous verdict of the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered Thursday, October 26, 2023 by Justice Inyang Okoro who headed the seven-man panel of the apex court.
The Supreme Court judgment no doubt brought a huge sigh of relief to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC).
In fact, the apex court has saved Tinubu from the vice grips of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. The two candidates were Tinubu’s main rivals in the 2023 presidential race and were hell-bent in ousting him from the coveted office even after he was declared winner and subsequently inaugurated into office.
Atiku, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Obi, the flag bearer of the Labour Party had both appealed the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which on September 6, 2023 affirmed Tinubu’s victory in the February 25, 2023 poll.
But the Justices of Nigeria’s Supreme Court aligned with the judgement passed by the court below and in separate judgments dismissed the appeals of the presidential candidates of the two main opposition parties.
The Allied Peoples Movement (APM), which was among the parties that went all the way to the apex court to void Tinubu’s mandate, had withdrawn its appeal on October 23, 2023. But before then, the party was given hot lashings by the Supreme Court for filing “frivolous appeal”.
There was high hope on the part of Atiku, PDP faithful and supporters following his voyage of discovery to the United States of America where he obtained fresh evidence from the Chicago State University showing that Tinubu had submitted “a forged certificate” to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
However, the Supreme Court panel of Justices refused to accept the fresh evidence brought by Atiku thereby shattering his hope of using it to nullify Tinubu’s presidential election victory.
In what appeared more as the usual technicalities, the apex court held that it lacked jurisdiction to accept the fresh evidence brought before it. Reason: it was brought outside the 180 days provided by law.
Atiku had, through his counsel, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, asked for leave to present fresh evidence obtained from the CSU. The intention of the PDP presidential candidate was to use the fresh evidence to prove his allegation that the certificate Tinubu submitted to INEC as his academic qualification was not issued by the university he claimed to have attended.
The new evidences included the academic records of Tinubu as well as a deposition of the Registrar of CSU, Caleb Westberg at a U.S District Court authenticating the genuineness of the documents released to Atiku.
In its judgment, the apex court held that the application for the admission of the fresh evidence “cannot be granted” since it was coming after the mandatory time provided by law, citing Section 285 of the Constitution.
Justice Okoro noted that the law is sacrosanct, hence the fresh application which was brought on October 6, came after the case had expired on September 17, and cannot be be accepted by the apex court, since the tribunal had done with the case.
Atiku filed his petition on March 21, on the last day provided by the law, while the presidential election tribunal delivered its judgment on September 6, 2023, few days to the expiration of the 180 days.
The Supreme Court said that since the lower court has lacked jurisdiction to entertain the application, the apex court could not do anything with it, adding that in law the time fixed for certain things cannot be extended.
“The 180 days is immutable and cannot be extended,” Justice Okoro asserted. He further explained that Atiku’s legal team “did not ask for extension of time to amend their petition (in order) to bring in their deposition, even at that it can still not be accepted”.
Moreover, the Supreme Court noted that the appellants neither pleaded forgery in their case at the lower court nor did they even apply for amendment to reflect forgery before seeking to tender fresh evidence of forgery against Tinubu.
In the second judgment, Obi’s appeal suffered the same fate as it was readily dismissed for also lacking in merit.
According to Justice Obi’s appeal was similar to Atiku’s own, except the issue of double nomination which had already been dealt with earlier.
“It is the view of this court that the issue having been dealt with by this court on May 26, 2023…this court cannot allow the matter to be re-litigated; there must be an end to litigation,” Justice Okoro stated.
He said that the Supreme Court was in agreement with the PEPT which held the Tinubu was duly elected to become the president of Nigeria.
Thus, the issues of the alleged forgery and identity theft were eternally buried at the apex court cemetery.