On Monday, the All Progressives Congress (APC)urged the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja to reject the petition the Labour Party (LP) and Mr. Peter Obi, its presidential candidate, filed to challenge Sen. Bola Tinubu’s election as the winner of the February 25 election.
The APC, the 4th respondent, urged the PEPC to reject the petition in its notice of preliminary objection marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023 and filed at PEPC’s Secretariat on Monday night by Thomas Ojo, a member of the party’s legal team led by Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, in Abuja.
The party asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost on the grounds that it lacked merit and was frivolous.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Obi, the 1st petitioner, and LP, the 2nd petitioner, had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tinubu, Sen. Kashim Shettima and APC as 1st to 4th respondents, respectively.
The petitioners are seeking the nullification of the election victory of Tinubu and Shettima in the Feb. 25 presidential poll.
While former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came second with 6,984,520 votes in the election, Obi came third with 6,101,533 votes.
Abubakar and PDP are also challenging the outcome of the poll.
However, in the petition marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023 filed by Obi and LP’s lead counsel, Livy Ozoukwu, they contended that Tinubu “was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election.”
The petitioners claimed there was rigging in 11 states, adding that they would demonstrate this in the declaration of results based on the uploaded results.
Obi and LP said INEC violated its own regulations when it announced the result despite the fact that at the time of the announcement, the totality of the polling unit results had yet to be fully scanned, uploaded and transmitted electronically as required by the Electoral Act.
Among other prayers, the petitioners urged the tribunal to “determine that, at the time of the presidential election held on February 25, 2023, the 2nd and 3rd respondents (Tinubu and Shettima) were not qualified to contest the election.
“That it be determined that all the votes recorded for the 2nd respondent in the election are wasted votes, owing to the non-qualification of the 2nd and 3rd respondents.
“That it is determined that on the basis of the remaining votes (after discountenancing the votes credited to the 2nd respondent), the 1st petitioner (Obi) scored a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and had not less than 25 per cent of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of the states of the federation and the FCT and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
“That it be determined that the 2nd respondent (Tinubu), having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the presidential election in the FCT, was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on February 25.”
Responding, the APC prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that Obi, the 1st petitioner, lacked requisite locus standi to institute the petition because he was not a member of LP at least 30 days before the party’s presidential primary to be validly sponsored by the party.
It said: “The 1st petitioner (Obi) was a member of PDP until May 24, 2022.
“1st petitioner was screened as a presidential aspirant of the PDP in Apni 2022.
“1st petitioner participated and was cleared to contest the presidential election while being a member of the PDP.
“1st petitioner purportedly resigned his membership of PDP on May 24, 2022, to purportedly join the 2nd petitioner (Labour Party) on May 27, 2022.
“2nd petitioner conducted its presidential primary on May 30, 2022, which purportedly produced 1st petitioner as its candidate, which time contravened Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act for him to contest the primary election as a member of the 2nd petitioner.”
The party argued that Obi was not a member of LP at the time of his alleged sponsorship.
The APC argued that “by the mandatory provisions of Section 77 (1) (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2022, a political party shall maintain a register and shall make the such register available to INEC not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses and convention.”
It stated further that all the PDP’s presidential candidates were screened on April 29, 2022, an exercise in which Obi participated and was cleared to contest while being a member of the party.
It argued that the petition was incompetent since Obi’s name could not have been in LP’s register made available to INEC at the time he joined the party.
The APC equally argued that the petition was improperly constituted, having failed to join Atiku Abubakar and PDP, which were necessary parties to be affected by the reliefs sought.
“By Paragraph 17 of the petition, the petitioners, on their own, stated that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came second in the presidential election with 6,984,520 votes as against the petitioners who came third with 6,101,533 votes;
“At Paragraph 102 (ii) of the petition, the petitioners urged the tribunal to determine that the 1st petitioner scored the majority of lawful votes without joining Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the petition.
“For the tribunal to grant prayer (iii) of the petitioners, the tribunal must have set aside the scores and election of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must be heard before his votes can be discountenanced by the tribunal,” it said.
The party, therefore, argued that the tribunal lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain pre-election complaints embedded in the petition as presently constituted, among other arguments.
The APC urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost as the same was devoid of any merit and founded on frivolity.