By Cross Udo and Cajetan Mmuta
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi, yesterday rejected the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) judgement that affirmed the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
The PEPT had on Wednesday in a judgement on the consolidated petitions brought against the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) dismissed the petitions by the PDP, LP, and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
The five-man panel tribunal, while dismissing the petitions brought by the opposition parties, upheld the victory of Tinubu.
The judgement was delivered by the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsammani, assisted by other members of the panel-Justices Stephen Adah, Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf, Moses Ugo, and Abba Mohammed.
Reacting to the ruling yesterday, Atiku said the tribunal judgement failed to restore confidence.
He said, “Though the judgement of yesterday is respected, it is a judgement I refused to accept. I refused to accept the judgement because I believe it is bereft of substantial justice,” Atiku said while addressing a world press conference at the PDP headquarters in Abuja.
Also, Atiku’s Lead Counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), said he had received instructions from his client to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.
He said “The judgment has been delivered but we have not received justice. Luckily, the law has given us leverage to go on appeal to the Supreme Court. We have instructions from our clients to go to the Supreme Court. The struggle continues.”
The five-member panel took turns to dismiss the petitions presented by Atiku and Obi against the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission on March 1, 2023.
But addressing a press conference yesterday, Atiku said he was not new to a legal battle and he would continue to explore the judiciary for respite.
“However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.
“Consequently, I have asked my lawyers to activate my constitutionally guaranteed rights of appeal to the higher court, which in this instance, is the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”
He added, “My decision to go to court is anchored in my belief that the court is the sanctuary of justice. The journey of my political career, as you know, holds so much to the courage and fearless decisions of our judiciary.
“Indeed, I am no stranger to legal battles, and I can say that I have a fair idea of how the court system works. Throughout my career as a politician, I have been a fighter, and I must say that I have found the judiciary as a worthy pillar to rest on in the pursuit of justice.
“The last presidential election in our country and the way it was managed by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, leaves behind unenviable precedents, which I believe the courts must redress.
“Our gains in ensuring transparent elections through the deployment of technology was heavily compromised by INEC in the way it managed the last presidential election, and I am afraid that the judgement of the court as rendered by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal yesterday, failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.
“Like I did say at the beginning of this legal battle when I instructed my lawyers to file my petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election, my ultimate goal in this pursuit is to ensure that democracy is further strengthened through the principles and processes of fair hearing.”
Also, Obi said he rejected the PEPT judgement delivered on the outcome of the February 25 election.
Obi, who spoke during a news conference at his Onitsha residence yesterday, acknowledged that though the PEPCs adhered to the statutory time frames, he disagreed with the judgement’s rationale and conclusion.
“I express respect for the Court’s views and rulings but openly disagree with the judgment’s rationale and conclusions,” he said.
Obi announced his intention, in his capacity as a presidential candidate and on behalf of the Labour Party, to immediately challenge this judgment through the appellate process.
According to him, the PEPC is not the ultimate authority in this matter, emphasizing that the responsibility now rests with the Supreme Court, which he expressed confidence in.
Obi urged Nigerians to maintain their focus, steadfastness, and commitment to peaceful processes while emphasizing the importance of adhering to the rule of law.
He made it clear that the matter has not yet reached its logical conclusion.
Obi hinted that his legal team has already received firm instructions to file an appeal against the PEPC’s decision.
He expressed unwavering determination in his pursuit of justice, not only for himself but also for the multitude of supporters across the nation whose electoral mandate he said was unjustly thwarted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Obi underscored the pivotal role of solid national institutions and the public’s confidence in them for a thriving democracy.
He pointed out that electoral litigations could be significantly reduced if INEC discharged its statutory functions transparently and fairly.
Obi extended his gratitude to every Nigerian who had supported their cause and the campaign for a New Nigeria built on principles of fairness, equity, justice, the rule of law, peace, prosperity, inclusiveness, sustainable growth, and development.
He thanked his legal team, the Labour Party, the Obedient Family, and all those who steadfastly attended the court proceedings.
READ ALSO:Atiku rejects PEPC’s verdict
*Don’t waste your time, Kogi Gov Bello advises them
Meanwhile, the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, yesterday advised Atiku Obi to perish the idea of appealing the judgement of the PEPT in the Supreme Court.
Fielding questions after paying a solidarity visit to Vice President Kashim Shettima, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Governor Bello said as far as he was concerned there was no reason why Atiku and Obi should challenge the judgement.
But the governor said that two of the Kogi state APC senators whose election victories were upturned by the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal will head to the appeal court to challenge the tribunal’s verdict.
He boasted that the APC would retain the three Senatorial seats for Kogi state
Asked what the general feeling of the APC regarding the tribunal’s verdict was, Bello said, “Nothing is as successful as success. We are happy; Nigerians are happy and the truth is out there. We appreciate all that happened yesterday. The truth has been exposed. Imagine the justices sitting down for almost fourteen hours to deliver that landmark judgement yesterday.
“Nigerians within the country and in the diaspora are happy and I think it’s time to settle down and face governance. And I advise all those who feel aggrieved, that we have only one country, Nigeria they should all come together and support President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and ensure that we fix this country.
“Whatever hardship we are facing today is the effects of the past. We have Mr Fix It who is trying his best travelling around the world to ensure that Nigeria is fixed. So we are happy the matter is settled.
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think there is any ground for appeal. I would rather appeal to them that they should drop any appeal going to the higher court and then save the resources, save the trouble, advice their supporters, and admonish them that they should accept yesterday’s judgement. No flaw. I thank God for all that happened yesterday (Wednesday).
Asked what would be his advice to the supporters of the two Kogi APC Senators who lost their seats at the tribunal, he said, “This is democracy and they have the right of appeal. I think they will take the appropriate steps to ensure that no violence is orchestrated anywhere.
“We will follow the due process of the law and whatever will be the outcome at the end of the day, we abide by it. But I want to assure you that even judging from the pronouncements yesterday at the appeal court, we are going to have our 3/3 Senate in Kogi state, I can assure you.”
Recall that the Kogi State Election Tribunal had declared Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan of the PDP as the winner of the 25th February Senatorial election in the Kogi Central Senatorial District.
The three-member panel of judges, led by K.A Orjiako, at the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal unanimously declared her winner of the election after nullifying the victory of the All Progress Congress, APC, candidate, Abubakar Sadiku-Ohere.
The National Assembly election petition tribunal sitting in Lokoja, Kogi State, also sacked the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs Excise and Tariffs, Jibrin Isah, APC, Kogi East, on the ground that elections were cancelled in 94 polling units.
Consequently, it ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct a supplementary election in the 94 polling units.