The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has appointed nine Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to defend its conduct of the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
The team, according to City Lawyer, is to be led by former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN). Other members of the team are Stephen Adehi (SAN), Oluwakemi Pinheiro (SAN), Miannaya Essien (SAN), and Abdullahi Aliyu (SAN).It was gathered from a member of the legal team that four SANs who are staff of INEC’s Legal Department are also members of the legal team alongside Messrs Garba Hassan, Musa Attah, and Ms. Patricia Obi.
Last week, it was revealed that the electoral umpire had budgeted over N3 billion to defend the results of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, as well as the March 18 governorship and state House of Assembly polls.It would be recalled that the commission had on March 1, 2023, declared Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
INEC declared that Tinubu polled a total of 8,794,726 votes and also scored over 25 per cent of the votes cast in 30 states, while Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 6,984,520 votes to take the second position.According to the electoral umpire, the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi came third in the election with a total of 6,101,533 votes, while Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) came fourth with 1,496,687 votes.However, Atiku, Obi, and two other presidential candidates – Solomon Okangbuan of the Action Alliance (AA) and Chichi Ojei of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) have challenged INEC’s declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election by filing their petitions at the Presidential Elections Tribunal in Abuja.
The election, which was criticised by many observers and the opposition parties as having been fraught with some irregularities, was adjudged to be free and fair by the APC and its supporters.Obi in his petition claimed that Tinubu “was not duly elected by the majority of the lawful votes castt the time of the election.” The former governor of Anambra State further alleged that there was rigging in 11 states, vowing that he would prove his claim in the declaration of results based on the uploaded results.
The petition reads: “The petitioners shall show that in the computation and declaration of the result of the election, based on the updated results, the votes recorded for the second respondent (Tinubu) did not comply with the legitimate process for the computation of the result and disfavoured the petitioners in the following states: Rivers, Lagos, Taraba, Benue, Adamawa, Imo, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Plateau and other states of the federation.”
Obi and LP said INEC violated its regulations when it announced the result, although, 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 second and third respondents (Tinubu and Shettima) were not qualified to contest the election;“That it be determined that all the votes recorded for the second respondent in the election are wasted votes, owing to the non-qualification of the second and third respondents;
“That it is determined that based on the remaining votes (after discountenancing the votes credited to the second respondent) the first 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 Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the February 25, 2023, presidential election;“That it be determined that the second respondent (Tinubu), having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the presidential election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on February 25, 2023.”
The petitioners also argued that Tinubu, “at the time of the (presidential) election, was not qualified to contest the election.”Obi and LP further alleged that the former Lagos State Governor was fined $460,000 for an alleged offence involving dishonesty, particularly narcotics trafficking imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in case No: 93C 4483 between the US and Tinubu.They added that for this reason, the votes purportedly recorded for Tinubu at the presidential election were wasted votes and ought to be disregarded.The petitioners are also asking the tribunal for an order cancelling the election and compelling INEC to conduct a fresh election in which Tinubu, Shettima, and APC shall not participate.But Tinubu’s camp has insisted that he won the election fairly.