President Bola Tinubu says Atiku Abubakar’s petition challenging his victory at the 25 February presidential election is fraught with “repetitions, contradictions and confusion.”
Mr Tinubu’s lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun, is urging the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja to dismiss Atiku’s suit for lack of “substance.”
Atiku, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the disputed election, is praying the court to nullify Mr Tinubu’s victory.
Atiku and the PDP jointly filed the petition at the court, accusing Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, of manipulating the entire election in favour of Mr Tinubu.
They also argued that INEC declined to upload the polling units results of the presidential election to the result viewing portal (IREV) in real time as stipulated in the election guidlines. This, they said, created the avenue for Mr Tinubu and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to interfere with the votes.
Peter Obi, who came third in the election, behind Atiku who took the second spot, is similarly challenging the outcome of the poll in a separate petition filed at the court
They both prayed the five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani to declare them president.
However in his final written address marking the end of the legal proceedings, Mr Tinubu’s lawyer, Mr Olanipekun, argued that Atiku failed to substantiate his claims of electoral fraud against the president.
“…throughout the petition and during trial, at no portion did they (Atiku and PDP) state what they considered as the lawful votes cast for both parties and the number of unlawful votes added to the respondent’s (Mr Tinubu’s), or the number of votes unlawfully deducted from their own votes.”
Atiku had contended that Mr Tinubu did not garner the highest number of lawful votes cast during the February election.
Mr Olanipekun described the petitioners contention on the issue of “substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the constitution and Electoral Act” as “flimsy.”
He said Atiku and the PDP “did not deny the fact that it is the actual results in the respective polling units that were legitimately transferred to the ward collation centres, through to the local government collation centers, state collation centres and the national collation centre.”
Mr Olanipekun reminded the court that a majority of Atiku’s witnesses admitted in their testimonies “of this sequence of transmission” of results during the polls.
Weighing in on the strength of Atiku’s witnesses, Mr Olanipekun said their testimonies were a collection of “hearsay.”
“Without fear of contradiction, the petitioners have no single witness whose evidence could be described as useful or manageable to their case.”
‘Why I called only one witness’
Justifying his rationale for calling one out of the 39 witnesses he had indicated to present in aid of his client’s case, Mr Olanipekun explained that Opeyemi Bamidele’s testimony was enough proof of the president’s defence.
He noted that Mr Bamidele, a senator and a lawyer demonstrated “undoubted competence” in his evidence concerning the issues before the court.
Mr Bamidele represents Ekiti Central Senatorial District in the 10th National Assembly, was one of the drafters of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Mr Olanipekun, in the court filings, said Mr Bamidele being one of the drafters of the Electoral Act, “stated the position and intention of the legislature, particularly, as it relates to the appropriate mode of transmission as well as transfer and collation of results.”
During his testimony, Mr Bamidele informed the court that the electoral umpire was at liberty to choose its mode transmission of poll results.
Atiku is expected to also file his response to Mr Tinubu’s final written address.
The court will fix a date for adoption and closing arguments after all the parties in the suit including INEC and APC must have finished exchanging their final written addresses.
On 1 March, INEC declared Mr Tinubu winner of the presidential election. He was subsequently inaugurated on 29 May as Nigeria’s 16th president.
Mr Tinubu scored 8,794,721 votes to beat his closest challenger, Atiku who polled 6,984,520. Labour Party’s Peter Obi garnered 6,101,533 votes, clinching the third position.
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