The Allied Peoples Movement (APM), which aims to invalidate President Bola Tinubu’s election, concluded its case before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja on Wednesday.
Aisha Abubakar, the party’s Assistant Welfare Director and sole witness, presented seven batches of documentary evidence to support their argument that Tinubu was ineligible to participate in the 2023 presidential election.
Interestingly, all the respondents named in the case, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Mr. Ibrahim Masari, did not oppose the admission of the documents.
The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel accepted the evidence and marked them as exhibits.
It is worth noting that the APM had previously refused to withdraw its petition against President Tinubu’s election.
On May 30, the court suspended further proceedings after Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, the counsel for President Tinubu, brought to its attention a Supreme Court judgment that he claimed settled the issue raised by the APM in its petition.
Chief Olanipekun argued that the dismissed appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against his client addressed the legality of Tinubu’s nomination by the APC. He contended that the Supreme Court’s ruling covered the substance of the APM’s petition.
Tinubu’s lawyer emphasized the responsibility of officers of the court to assist and bring relevant decisions from other jurisdictions to the attention of the judges in any pending matter.
He said, “Even if those decisions do not necessarily align with the interest of our clients. If becomes more imperative if we are aware or abreast of any decision of the Supreme Court which touches on matters within the proceedings before your lordships.
“In this wise my lords, this particular petition which has just been called in respect of which the sole issue that is being ventilated is the nomination of the 1st Respondent who we represent.
“We are aware that the Supreme Court gave a judgement on the issue on Friday, May 23, in respect of appeal No: SC/CV/501/2023, and the parties involved were PDP Vs INEC& 3 Ors, where the apex court considered all the issues and resolved them.
“We will confirm from the petitioners, whether in the light of the Supreme Court decision, there will still be the need to continue with this petition.”
However, despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the petitioner, represented by Mr. Gideon Idiagbonya, stated its intention to continue pursuing the case against Tinubu until its conclusion.
During the proceedings on Wednesday, the party presented exhibits as evidence to support its claim that Tinubu was ineligible to run in the presidential election.
These exhibits included documents related to Masari’s nomination as Tinubu’s running mate for the election, submitted through the witness.
However, before the witness left the stand, the APC’s lead counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, presented a copy of the Supreme Court judgment through her. The Respondents argued that this judgment had already settled the issue raised by the APM in their petition.
The Justice Tsammani-led panel adjourned the matter until July 14 for all parties to present their final briefs of argument. Afterward, the court will set a date to deliver its judgment.
The APM’s petition, with the reference number CA/PEPC/04/2023, claimed that Masari’s withdrawal from the vice-presidential candidacy of the APC rendered Tinubu’s candidacy invalid according to Section 131(c) and 142 of the amended 1999 Constitution.
The party argued that there was a three-week gap between Masari’s expressed intention to withdraw and the actual withdrawal of his nomination, during which time Tinubu purportedly replaced him with Senator Kashim Shettima.
The petitioner further argued that Tinubu’s candidacy had expired by the time he nominated Shettima as Masari’s replacement. According to the petitioner, Tinubu was no longer constitutionally qualified to nominate a running mate as he had ceased to be a presidential candidate, as stated in Section 142 of the 1999 Constitution.
The APM contended that Masari’s initial nomination activated the joint ticket principle in the Constitution, and his subsequent withdrawal invalidated the joint ticket. The party therefore requested the court to declare that Shettima was not qualified to run as the APC’s vice-presidential candidate on February 25, the day of the election conducted by INEC, as he had violated the provisions of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The APM also sought an order nullifying and voiding all the votes received by Tinubu in the presidential election due to his disqualification as a candidate of the APC, as well as an order to invalidate the Certificate of Return issued to the President by INEC.
Both President Tinubu and the APC have filed responses challenging the competence of the petition, asserting that it lacks merit.