Tribunal Faces Three-Week Challenge to Unravel Atiku, Obi, Tinubu & Sept 16 Deadline Complexities

As the global community anticipates the results of three crucial petitions filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party (LP), and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), along with their respective presidential candidates—Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr. Peter Obi, and Princess Chichi Ojei—challenging the declaration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the February 25, 2023 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sunday Vanguard delves into the individual cases put forth by the petitioners before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal led by Justice Haruna Simon Tsamani in Abuja. This article reviews the arguments presented by all parties involved and highlights the ongoing legal proceedings, with the tribunal expected to deliver its verdict by September 16, 2023. Amidst these high-profile cases, allegations of malpractices and misinformation have swirled in both social and traditional media, casting attention on the judiciary, which holds the final authority in these matters.

Background: Following INEC’s declaration of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the victor of the February 25, 2023 presidential election, the results have sparked controversy and legal challenges. Tinubu secured the win by garnering 8,794,726 votes (36.61% of total votes), while Atiku Abubakar came second with 6,984,520 votes (29.07%) and Peter Obi secured 6,101,533 votes (25.40%). However, multiple political parties, including the PDP and LP, contested the election results by filing petitions within the mandated 21-day window. A five-member panel of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, was established to hear these cases.

Challenges to the Election Outcome: Princess Chichi Ojei, representing the APM, argues that Tinubu’s nomination was flawed due to the nomination of Mr. Kashim Shettima as his vice presidential candidate, despite Shettima’s earlier nomination as a senatorial candidate. Ojei asserts that this dual nomination violates the Electoral Act. In response, the APC, INEC, and Tinubu’s legal teams urged the court to dismiss the petition, contending that such interference in party nominations goes against established legal principles.

Peter Obi, the LP candidate, contends that Tinubu’s election should be invalidated as both Tinubu and his running mate, Vice President Kashim Shettima, were allegedly not qualified to contest. Obi claims that Tinubu’s $460,000 fine for narcotics trafficking and Shettima’s dual candidacy conflict with eligibility requirements. Obi and the LP further argue that Tinubu failed to secure the necessary one-quarter of votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and that the election was riddled with non-compliance issues. However, the respondents—Tinubu, Shettima, the APC, and INEC—dismiss these allegations, urging the court to uphold the election results.

Atiku Abubakar’s petition is grounded in the assertion of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, during the election. He maintains that Tinubu’s purported victory was invalidated by his failure to secure 25% of the FCT’s votes, a constitutional requirement. Atiku also argues that technological glitches during the election, along with the bypassing of the Bi-Modal Voters’ Accreditation System (BVAS), compromised the electoral process. The legal teams of both sides presented conflicting arguments about the integrity of the election process, with Atiku’s lawyers asserting deliberate manipulation and the respondents refuting these claims.

Current Status and Future Steps: The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal is set to deliver its judgment by September 16, 2023. Regardless of the tribunal’s decision, all parties retain the right to appeal to the Supreme Court, indicating that the legal process may continue beyond the tribunal’s ruling.

In the meantime, the cases have captured widespread attention and sparked public debates due to their significant implications for the nation’s political landscape. Allegations of misinformation and manipulation have circulated on various media platforms, further adding to the complexity of the situation and raising questions about the credibility of the electoral process.

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