By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has asked the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja to dismiss a petition the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, filed to nullify his election victory.
Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, maintained that the petition was bereft of merit and substance.
The APM had in its petition marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, contended that the withdrawal of Mr. Ibrahim Masari who was initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, invalidated Tinubu’s candidacy in view of Section 131(c) and 142 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The party argued that there was a gap of about three weeks between the period that Masari, who was listed as the 5th Respondent in the petition, expressed intention to withdraw, the actual withdrawal of his purported nomination, and the time Tinubu purportedly replaced him with Senator Kashim Shettima.
It further argued that Tinubu’s candidature had elapsed as at the time he nominated Shettima as Masari’s replacement.
According to the petitioner, as at the time Tinubu announced Shettima as the Vice Presidential candidate, “he was no longer in a position, constitutionally, to nominate a running mate since he had ceased to be a presidential candidate of the 2nd Respondent having regards to the provisions of section 142 of the 1999 Constitution”.
More so, APM, contended that Masari’s initial nomination activated the joint ticket principle enshrined in the Constitution, stressing that his subsequent withdrawal invalidated the said joint ticket.
It, therefore, prayed the court to declare that Shettima was not qualified to contest as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC as at February 25 when the election was conducted by INEC having violated the provisions the of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
“An order nullifying and voiding all the votes scored by Tinubu in the presidential election in view of his non-qualification as a candidate of the APC”.
Likewise, an order to set aside the Certificate of Return that was issued to the President-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The APC had on May 8, filed a preliminary objection to challenge the competence of the petition which it urged the court to dismiss in its entirety for lacking in merit.
Similarly, both Tinubu and Shettima, who were cited as the 3rd and 4th Respondents, respectively, asked the court to either strike out or dismiss the petition.
Tinubu stressed that the petitioner failed to establish a reasonable cause of action to warrant the nullification of his election victory.
Meanwhile, when the matter was called on Tuesday, the party, through its team of lawyers led by Mr. M. O . Atoyebi, SAN, adopted answers it filed on April 21, in response to pre-hearing information sheet that was issued by the court.
Whereas Mr. A. B. Mahmood, SAN, led the team of eight Senior Advocates of Nigeria that appeared for the INEC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, represented the APC while Mr. Yomi Aliyu appeared for Masari.
After all the parties adopted their answers, the five-member panel of the court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani adjourned further pre-hearing session on the petition till Thursday.
The court directed all the parties to identify all applications and documents they would either concede to or object to during full-blown hearing of the matter.
The panel equally directed the parties to outline issues to be determined in the petition.