The All Progressive Congress (APC) has asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja to dismiss the petition brought against Bola Ahmed Tinubu by the Labour Party LP and its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Gregory Obi, for being incompetent and lacking in locus standi.
APC cited an alleged breach of the mandatory provision of Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, by Peter Obi and his party.
In a defense filed in response to Obi’s petition, APC submitted that Obi was not validly sponsored by the Labour Party as prescribed by the mandatory provision of the Electoral Act and therefore could not rightfully and lawfully commence or sustain his petition, seeking to void its victory at the presidential polls.
APC’s position was contained in its 4th respondent’s reply to Obi and LP’s petition filed on Monday, April 10, 2023, by his legal team led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and 28 other Senior Advocates, including Chief Charles Edosomwan and Chief Adeniyi Akintola, wherein he contended that the non-compliance with the said provision of the Electoral Act was fatal to the petitioner’s quest to nullify his victory.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the presidential election, Obi and the Labour Party (1st and 2nd petitioners) had approached the tribunal, insisting that the APC with its standard bearer, Bola Ahmed Tibubu, was unlawfully declared winner of the election, and praying it to nullify the said declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The duo named the Independent National Electoral Commission, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senator Shettima Kashim, and the All Progressives Congress as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respondents.
However, in the reply brief, APC contended that Obi and LP’s petition was incompetent and not sustainable and prayed for the tribunal to dismiss it outright.
Two major grounds cited to support the request for dismissal of the petition are that Obi was not a member of the Labor Party 30 days before the conduct of the Party’s presidential primary election and that Obi was a full member of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP until May 24, 2022, thereby not lawfully sponsored by the LP.
Other grounds are that the 1st Petitioner (Obi) was screened as a presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party in April 2022; “1st Petitioner participated and was cleared to contest the presidential election while being a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP);
“The first petitioner purportedly resigned his membership in the People's Democratic Party on May 24, 2022, to join the second petitioner (the Labour Party) on May 27, 2022.
“2nd Petitioner (Labour Party) conducted its presidential primary on 30th May 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 1st Petitioner was not a member of the 2nd Petitioner at the time of his alleged sponsorship.
“Whereas, 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 such register available to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not later than 30 (thirty) days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses, and conventions.
“All the presidential candidates of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) were screened on April 29, 2022, an exercise in which the 1st Petitioner (Obi) herein participated and was cleared to contest while being a member of the Party.
“The 1st Petitioner herein resigned his membership in the PDP on Thursday, May 26, 2022, and joined the Labour Party the following day, May 27, 2022.
“The 2nd Petitioner herein conducted its presidential primary on May 30, 2022, which produced the 1st Petitioner as the candidate it intended to sponsor in the general election.
“By section 77(3) of the Electoral Act of 2022, the 2nd Petitioner is mandated to have submitted its comprehensive register of members to the 1st Respondent 30 days before its presidential primary. That is to say, the said register of members must have been submitted to the first respondent on or before April 30, 2022.
“The 1st Petitioner, as of April 30, 2022, was still a member of the PDP, and his name was not and could not have been in the register of members submitted by the 2nd Petitioner to the 1st Respondent, INEC.
The APC, therefore, submitted that the petition is incompetent as the 1st petitioner is not a member of the 2nd petitioner since the 1st petitioner’s name is not and could not have been listed in the list of the register made available by the 2nd petitioner to the 1st respondent, the same having been made available before the 1st petitioner joined the 2nd petitioner.”
The party further submitted that “the 1st Petitioner lacks the locus standi to challenge the outcome of the Presidential Election held on February 27, 2023 as the 2nd Petitioner did not present a valid candidate for that election.”
APC also argued that Obi and LP’s petition was improperly constituted because it failed to join Atiku Abubakar and the People's Democratic Party (PDP), who are necessary parties as the reliefs sought will affect them one way or another.
This leg of the objection is predicated on the following argument:
By paragraph 17 of the Petition, the Petitioner on their own stated that 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;
In paragraph 102 (iii) of the Petition, the Petitioner 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;
The petition is incompetent for failure to join as a party to the petition the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, the 1st runner up, and his political party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), as a respondent whose rights would be affected by the reliefs sought in the petition.
The Petition as presently constituted is challenging the votes cast at the election, seeking, inter alia, the nullification of the entire election, thereby challenging the votes attributed not only to himself but also those attributed to the 2nd Respondent, who emerged winner, and those attributed to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the person who emerged 2nd at the election.
In further answer to paragraph 14 of the petition, the Respondent avers that the 3rd Respondent was validly sponsored and nominated by the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, qualified to be nominated by the 2nd Respondent as a vice presidential candidate, validly contested on a joint ticket with the 2nd Respondent, and was validly returned as the vice president, having won a majority of the lawful votes cast at the said election.
In response to paragraph 15 of the petition, the Respondent duly sponsored the 2nd Respondent who participated in the election and won with a majority of lawful votes cast and was consequently validly declared the winner of the election by the 1st Respondent
The Respondent shall, at the hearing of this petition, contend that the grounds of the petition, which lumped complaints of corrupt practices with non-compliance upon which this petition is predicated, are grossly incompetent, frivolous, and an abuse of court process.
The respondent states further that there are no facts in support of complaints of corrupt practices, and the facts in support of allegations of non-compliance cannot be relied on or adopted to support the missing facts of corrupt practices.
The respondent states in reaction to paragraph 21 of the petition that the nomination of the 3rd respondent by the 2nd respondent as the vice-presidential candidate was done lawfully and in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and the Electoral Act, 2022.
The Respondent denies paragraphs 22 and 23 of the petition, puts the petitioners on the strictest proof thereof, and further avers as follows:
The 3rd respondent withdrew as the respondent’s candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial District election on the 6th day of July 2022. The Respondent shall at the hearing of this petition, rely on the 3rd Respondent’s letter of voluntary withdrawal written to the Respondent, dated 6th day of July 2022;
As of the 14th day of July 2022, when he was nominated as the vice-presidential candidate of the Respondent, the 3rd Respondent was no longer the Respondent’s Senatorial candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial election;
The Form EC11C (Notice of withdrawal) signed by the 3rd Respondent on 6th July 2022 was merely conveyed by the officials of the Respondent on the 15th day of July 2022 to the 1st Respondent to enable Respondent present 3rd Respondent to INEC as its Vice-Presidential candidate;
That the date on the said Form EC11C (15th July 2022) is not at all the date the 3rd Respondent withdrew from contesting as a senatorial candidate of the Respondent for the Borno Central Senatorial Election;
The emergence of the 3rd Respondent as the vice-presidential candidate of the Respondent was in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022;
The Respondent avers that there is no such constituency like or known as “Borno Central Constituency” as pleaded by the petitioners as the same does not exist and that what actually exists is Borno Central Senatorial District which is not the same thing as “Borno Central Constituency”;
The 3rd Respondent is not obliged to and did not participate in any Presidential primary election; and
The conduct of a party primary election is not a prerequisite to being nominated as a vice presidential candidate.
Consequently, APC prayed for the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of substance and merit.