Court dismisses legal challenge against validity of Tinubu’s election in Nigeria

Sika Togoh
Sika Togoh
5 Min Read

A Nigerian court on Wednesday , September 6, dismissed a major opposition petition to overturn President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s February election victory after a highly contested ballot.

Judges dismissed all claims made by Labour Party candidate Peter Obi, including fraud, charges the electoral authority broke the law and allegations Bola Tinubu was not eligible to run.

“This petition is hereby declared unmeritorious,” one of the judges said in the Abuja courtroom after more than six hours reading out their detailed judgement.

Three of the country’s largest opposition parties  challenged the validity of the election ,which they said was illegally announced and argued that Tinubu was not qualified to run for president because he was a citizen of Guinea and allegedly did not have the required academic credentials.

The opposition, which had hinted at possible protests if the court upheld Tinubu’s election, rejected the court’s ruling but did not immediately say if they will appeal it. The verdict can be appealed at Nigeria’s Supreme Court within 60 days.

In the Court of Appeal in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, a five-member justice panel, dismissed most of the grounds of the petitions filed by the Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president who came second in the election, the third-place finisher Peter Obi with Labour Party as well as the Allied Peoples Movement.

The panel ruled that Obi was not able to prove his claims that the Nigerian election commission did not follow due process in announcing the results of the vote nor that the voting was marred by irregularities and that he — not Tinubu — won the election with a majority of votes. The court also ruled that he failed to prove his claim that Tinubu was once indicted on drug charges in the United States, thereby disqualifying him from running for president.

“It is clearly evident that the petitioners have failed to discharge the burden of proof placed on them by law,” said Haruna Tsammani, head of the panel. “They have not been able to leave any cogent, credible and acceptable evidence.”

It also rejected a petition by the Allied Peoples Movement which sought to nullify Tinubu’s victory on the ground that his running mate — Vice President Kashim Shettima— was not legally nominated to contest. It said Shettima met the minimum constitutional provisions allowing him to run.

Amid tight security in Abuja, various support groups chanted songs near the court premises to show solidarity with their political parties and to urge the judiciary to “do the right thing.”

The tribunal is empowered to either to enforce or uphold the electoral victory of the incumbent President or declare someone else the winner, annul the vote, or to order a new election. It would have been a first in Nigeria’s history if the judges upheld the petitions and annulled the presidential election.

A presidential election can be annulled only on the basis of evidence that the Independent National Electoral Commission did not follow the law and acted in ways that might have affected an election’s outcome.

Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, all presidential elections but one have been contested in court. None were overturned.

Police in Abuja issued a statement Tuesday warning citizens “to be cautious in their actions and statements,” saying security forces would not “condone activities capable of inciting violence or causing a descent into anarchy.

The former Lagos State Governor, 71 year old Bola Ahmed Tinubu won the elections with less than 50% of the vote, also a first in Nigeria’s history. The election was largely described by observers as an improvement from the 2019 election, although critics also said the delays in uploading — and announcing — election results could have given room for ballot tampering, critics say.

 

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