The Abuja-based Presidential Electoral Appeal Tribunal, PEPC, has dismissed the claim by the Labor Party LP and its candidate, Peter Obi, that the 2023 presidential election was rigged for President Bola Tinubu.
In a preliminary ruling by Justice Abba Mohammed, the court said Obi and the LP failed to substantiate their claim that the February 25 election was characterized by blatant corruption with credible evidence.
It found that while the petitioners claimed that there were irregularities in the election, they did not provide details of where the alleged irregularities occurred.
The court noted that while Obi and the LP claimed that the election was rigged in 18,088 polling stations across the federation, they failed to disclose the location of the said polling stations.
He further found that Obi’s allegation that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, registered fictitious results for President Tinubu and the APC was not proven. The court further observed that the petitioners failed to declare the bill which they claimed was deducted from the election results they collected in various states of the federation, particularly Ondo, Oyo, Rivers, Yobe, Borno, Tabara, Osun and Lagos states.
The court observed that the petitioners also failed to declare the voting divisions where the over-voting occurred and the exact figures of the illegal votes credited to Tinubu by INEC. It emphasized that while Obi and LP claimed that they relied on the spreadsheets and the forensic report and expert analysis of their expert witnesses, they did not attach the documents to the application or produce them to the respondents as required by law.
The court observed that while the petition contained serious allegations bordering on violence, non-voting, vote suppression, fictitious declaration of election results and corruption, the petitioners did not provide information on the specific voting divisions where the incidents occurred.
He found that parts of the petition containing various accusations were “vague, imprecise, unclear and without concrete materials”.
Therefore the court omitted paragraphs 9, 60, 61, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 76, 77, 78, 83 and 89 of the petition. However, the court rejected the claim of the respondents that the LP did not submit an Obit for the presidential election. It stated that the respondents claimed that Obi left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on 2
.05.2022 and joined the LP on 27.05.2022.
The respondents alleged that as at May 30, 2022, Obi was not a valid member of the LP and could not properly participate in its presidential election.
They argued that his name cannot be in the LP membership register which should be submitted to INEC 30 days before the primaries. However, the court found in its decision that the membership issue is an internal matter of the political party, which is not legitimate. He said that only the LP has the prerogative to determine who is its member, adding that the respondents had no right to question Obi’s membership in the LP. Similarly, the court said that contrary to the claims of Tinubu and the APC, the petitioners had no obligation to align themselves with the election runner-up, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, or his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the matter.
The court held that both Atiku and the PDP are neither legal respondents nor necessary parties to the petition.
After deciding the preliminary issues, the presiding judge of the five-member panel, Justice Haruna Tsammani, now reads the court’s decision on the merits.