A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court will today hear the appeals by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi challenging the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court, which affirmed President Bola Tinubu’s election.
Members of the panel, which have yet to be unveiled, will hear the appeals by Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) challenging the election of Mr. Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja, headed by Haruna Tsammani, had ruled that Atiku and Mr. Obi failed to substantiate their separate claims of widespread electoral malpractices during the conduct of the February 25 presidential election by Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC.
On the grounds that the lawsuit lacked merit, the court also dismissed another petition from the APM.
Atiku, Mr. Obi, and the APM all filed separate appeals to challenge the decision of the court.
The issues raised in the appeals include the eligibility of President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima’s candidature for the election.
The appellants also raised the issue of Mr. Tinubu’s inability to secure 25 percent of valid votes cast in Abuja during the polls.
They are also contesting INEC’s failure to electronically transmit polling unit results to its Results Viewing (IReV) portal in real-time and allegations of vote manipulation in favour of Mr. Tinubu.
Another key bone of contention before the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court is Mr. Tinubu’s academic records, which were obtained from Chicago State University (CSU) in October by Atiku.
Atiku has already filed the president’s educational documents before the court, urging it to examine the authenticity of Mr. Tinubu’s academic records from CSU.
However, Mr. Tinubu’s lead lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said in court filings that Atiku and Mr. Obi’s appeals lack substance.
Today’s proceedings in the Supreme Court
9:04 a.m.: A seven-member Supreme Court panel under the direction of John Okoro enters the courtroom.
The seven-member panel is composed of: John Okoro, Uwani Abba-Aji, Lawal Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijjani Abubakar, and Emmanuel Agim.
9:07 a.m.: The court registrar calls Atiku’s appeal against Mr. Tinubu.
09:10 a.m.: Chris Uche, a SAN, announces his appearance for Atiku.
09:12 a.m.: Abubakar Mahmoud, a SAN, announces legal representation for Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC.
9:14 a.m.: Wole Olanipekun, a SAN, announces his appearance for Mr. Tinubu.
9.16 a.m.: Akin Olujinmi, a SAN, announces legal representation for the APC.
9:18 a.m.: Chris Uche, a SAN, says the appeals are ripe for hearing.
Mr. Uche says there are some pending interlocutory applications.
09:20 a.m.: Mr. Uche moves a motion filed on October 6, 2023.
He seeks five minutes of adumberation of the application.
We are praying for an order of leave to present fresh evidence on appeal based on the deposition on oath from Chicago State University.
He says the application is predicated on 20 grounds and an affidavit of 20 paragraphs filed on behalf of Atiku.
Mr. Uche says that upon receipt of the counter-affidavit from Mr. Tinubu, APC, and INEC, we filed a written address dated October 18.
Mr. Uche adopts the application and urges the court to grant their request.
9.26 a.m.: He says the issue involving Mr. Tinubu’s certificate is a weighty, grave, and constitutional one, which the Supreme Court must decide. He urges the court to admit the fresh evidence of President Tinubu’s academic records from Chicago State University presented by Atiku.
He says the Supreme Court has a duty to take a look at Mr. Tinubu’s records and reach a decision devoid of technicality.
9:28 a.m.: The presiding justice, Mr. Okoro, asks Mr. Uche whether the Supreme Court should rely on the Electoral Act or the Constitution.
In his response, Mr. Uche says the issue about Mr. Tinubu’s certificate is a constitutional matter that the court should look into.
9:29 a.m.: A member of the panel, Emmanuel Agim, asks Mr. Uche to explain the nature of Atiku’s fresh documents he seeks to tender before the Supreme Court.
9:32 a.m. Justice Agim asks whether the testimony by the CSU registrar was conducted in court.
Justice Agim says from Mr. Uche’s court filing that the testimony by the CSU registrar was held in Atiku’s lawyer’s law office in the US.
9:35 a.m.: Justice Agim says the CSU did not issue any letter discrediting Mr. Tinubu’s certificate.
“We are dealing with a matter that touches on the national unity of Nigeria,” the Justice adds.
9:36 a.m.: Justice Okoro seeks clarification from Atiku’s lawyer, Mr. Uche.
9.38 a.m.: Mr. Okoro asks Mr. Uche why he wants the Supreme Court to brush aside constitutional provisions and entertain the fresh evidence.
09:39 a.m.: Mr. Uche explains that Section 233 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to entertain questions about whether a person has been properly elected.
9:43 a.m.: Mr. Uche responds to the issue raised about the CSU proceedings.
“There is a slight distinction between proceedings in the US and the UK.
“In the US, that is how court proceedings are done.
“Mr. Tinubu was represented by a US lawyer, but he did not object to the proceedings being held in Atiku’s lawyer’s office.”
Mr. Uche says depositions are more effective than letters from the CSU authorities regarding the authenticity of Mr. Tinubu’s academic records.
9:43 a.m.: Justice Okoro says criminal matters have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. But in this case, there are two conflicting letters from the CSU—one authenticating the president’s certificate and another discrediting it. “Which do we rely on?” he asked.
Mr. Uche refers the court to a letter earlier issued to Michael Enahoro-Ebah, a lawyer, who testified for Atiku against Mr. Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja.
9:48 a.m.: INEC lawyer Abubakar Mahmoud asks the Supreme Court to dismiss Atiku’s application seeking to tender Mr. Tinubu’s academic records.
9:49 a.m.: Mr. Olanipekun, who is Mr. Tinubu’s lawyer, urges the Supreme Court to “dismiss this very unusual application” seeking to tender fresh evidence against Mr. Tinubu.
He says the fresh evidence is not admissible.
Mr. Olanipekun argues that the CSU depositions are dormant until the deponent comes to court and testifies. INEC should have been a party to the deposition proceedings in the US, the lawyer says.
Mr. Olanipekun further says the question of 180 days (the statutory period within which an election petition should be filed and determined) is clear. It is sacrosanct. It cannot be shifted. Therefore, Atiku cannot seek to tender fresh evidence at the Supreme Court.
9.51 a.m.: Mr. Olanipekun wonders how the Supreme Court will compartmentalise Atiku’s fresh evidence. “This is an application in Wonderland. It has no merit. We urge the court to dismiss.
“The courts are bound by the law, and the law is to be interpreted as it is,” he says.
10 a.m.: Akin Olujinmi addresses the Supreme Court.
“This application lacks merit; it is misconceived, and we urge the court to dismiss it,” the APC lawyer says.
Mr. Olujinmi adopts Mr. Olanipekun’s arguments.
“You cannot smuggle a document into the Supreme Court without first tendering it at the trial court,” the lawyer added.
10:04 a.m.: Justice Okoro asks, “What do we do with the fresh evidence?”
According to Mr. Olujinmi, Atiku has the burden of demonstrating why the Supreme Court should accept the new evidence.
10:05 a.m.: Mr. Uche responds to Tinubu’s lawyers regarding the CSU proceedings.
10.06 a.m.: Mr. Uche says the CSU depositions can be used in the Nigerian court.
10:11 a.m.: Mr. Olanipekun informs the court of a motion his team filed on October 7, praying for the striking out of some of the appellants’ grounds of appeal.
10:12 a.m.: Chris Uche says, in opposition, that his team filed a counter-affidavit on October 18. He says the counter-affidavit is accompanied by a written address.
“We urge the court to dismiss Mr. Tinubu’s motion,” he adds.
10:14 a.m.: The Supreme Court begins hearing substantive appeals in Atiku’s case against Mr. Tinubu.
Mr. Uche adopts his court filings in the substantive appeal.
He urges the court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court.
He says germane constitutional issues are involved in the appeal; therefore, the Supreme Court should critically examine the appeal.
10:17 a.m.: INEC lawyer, Mr. Mahmoud, addresses the court.
He asks the court to dismiss the appeal as it lacks merit.
Mr. Olanipekun jokingly points out the contradictions in Atiku’s prayers, where he prayed to the court to disqualify Mr. Tinubu as a candidate in the election and, in another breath, called for a rerun to be conducted between him and Mr. Tinubu.
The courtroom erupted into laughter.
10:24 a.m.: Court rises for a five-minute recess.
10:52 a.m.: Mr. Olanipekun addresses the court. He urges it to strike out APM’s grounds of appeal.
10:53 a.m.: An APM lawyer said he filed a counter-affidavit to Mr. Olanipekun’s motion seeking to strike out the appeal.
He asks the court to allow the appeal.
“What will you gain if you win this appeal?” Justice Okoro asks the APM lawyer
11:00 a.m.: An APM lawyer tries to justify the merits of his client’s case.
But he now plans to withdraw the appeal.
The APM lawyer says, “I apply to withdraw this appeal.”
The INEC lawyer is not opposed to the withdrawal of the appeal.
APC’s and Tinubu’s lawyers also have no objection.
11:13 a.m.: The court calls Peter Obi’s appeal challenging Mr. Tinubu’s election.
11:14 a.m.: Mr. Obi’s lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu, a SAN, announces his appearance.
11:16 a.m.: Tinubu’s lawyer asks the court in a preliminary objection to dismiss Mr. Obi’s appeal for lacking merit.
11:22 a.m.: Mr. Uzoukwu begins arguments in Mr. Obi’s substantive appeal.
He adopts all court processes, urging them to allow the appeal.
11:23 a.m.: INEC lawyer, Mr. Mahmoud, says we filed a brief of argument.
“We humbly adopt all the arguments and urge my lordships to dismiss the appeal for lacking merit,” Mr. Mahmoud says.
11:26 a.m.: Olanipekun argues Mr. Tinubu’s case.
He adopts the court filings, praying for the court to dismiss the appeal.
11:27 a.m.: APC lawyer, Mr. Olujinmi, also adopts his client’s brief of argument.
He urges the court to dismiss. the appeal for being unmeritorious.
11: 30 a.m.: “This appeal is reserved for judgement until a date to be communicated to parties,” Justice Okoro says.