President Bola Tinubu
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Allied Peoples Movement, APM, has approached the Supreme Court, adducing reasons why it wants to nullify the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The party, in a 10-ground of appeal it lodged before the Apex court, maintained its position that Tinubu was not eligible to participate in the presidential poll that held on February 25.
It alleged that the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, relied on technicality to dismiss the petition it filed to challenge Tinubu’s nomination by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
According to the party, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel of the PEPC, erred in law, when it wrongfully waved aside the allegation that Tinubu’s running mate and Vice President, Kashim Shettima, was nominated twice for different positions by the APC, in relation to the 2023 general elections.
In the notice of appeal the party filed through its team of lawyers led by Mr. Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, it faulted the verdict the PEPC delivered on September 6, insisting that it was wrong for the court to dismiss its case against Tinubu’s election on the premise that it was not only incompetent but contained pre-election issues.
It argued that sections 131 and 142 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, were inextricably linked “and neither can be confined as a pre- election matter, as these qualifications are condition precedents to being elected to the office of President.”
“The Appellant’s petition was not one founded solely on nomination, but primarily that the 3rd respondent (Tinubu) contested the presidential election without a lawful associate running as his Vice President .
“That the withdrawal of (Mr. Ibrahim Masari) 5th Respondent and the expiry of the 14 days permissible for changing a withdraw or dead candidate under section 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, made the 3rd Respondent’s election and return invalid.”
It told the apex court that the PEPC abandoned its duty and jurisdiction of hearing and determining the question of whether President Tinubu and Vice President Shettima were validly elected under the law, in view of provisions of section 239(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The APM, therefore, urged the Supreme Court to hold that the PEPC became interested in technical issues solely beneficial to the 3rd and 4th Respondents in the appeal (Tinubu and Shettima), rather than concentrating on whether they were validly elected or not.
It contended that being validly elected entailed “being qualified to contest the election,” adding that valid election include the threshold of qualifications and disqualification, as stipulated in the Constitution.
Consequently, the party, prayed the apex court to set aside the judgement of the PEPC and allow its appeal by declaring that President Tinubu was not qualified to contest the presidential election, “having violated the provisions of Section 142 (1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”
The party also prayed for a declaration that the return of Tinubu by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the President elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was null, void of no legal effect whatsoever.
“That the withdrawal of the 5th respondent (Ibrahim Masari), as Vice Presidential candidate to Tinubu by the operations of the law amounted to automatic withdrawal and invalidation of the candidate of APC.”
More so, it urged the Supreme Court to issue an order, nullifying and voiding all votes scored by APC in the Presidential election of February 25, as well as, to make an order, directing INEC to return the second highest score at the election as the winner of the presidential contest.
It will be recalled that the PEPC dismissed APM’s petition after it held that the Vice President, Shettima, was validly nominated as Tinubu’s running mate by the APC.
The court noted that issues the APM raised in its petition contained pre-election matters that could only be determined by the Federal High Court.
It stressed that since the petition centered on Tinubu’s qualification or otherwise to contest the presidential election, the APM, ought to have gone to court within 14 days after Tinubu was nominated by the APC.
Besides, the court, held that the APM lacked the locus standi (legal right) to challenge Tinubu’s candidacy, noting that the Supreme Court had earlier decided that a political party does not have the right to challenge a nomination that was made by another political party.
It held that where an election has already been conducted and result declared, the qualification of a candidate could no longer be challenged on the basis of sections 131 and 137 of the Constitution.
The court held that since the APM failed to challenge President Tinubu’s nomination within the constitutionally allowed period, its case, therefore, had become statute barred.
The court held that the issue of double nomination as canvassed by the APM, was not a legally cognizable ground for disqualification.
According to the PEPC, evidence before it attested to the fact that Shettima duly withdrew his candidacy for Borno Central Senatorial District on July 6, 2022, before he was nominated as Tinubu’s running mate.
Likewise, the court maintained that the legal dispute over Shettima’s nomination and Tinubu’s candidacy, had since been settled by the Supreme Court.
It held that the case having been decided by the apex court, no person was permitted to litigate on its again.
The APM had in its petition marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, argued that the withdrawal of Mr. Masari who was initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the 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.
It was the position of the party that 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.”
The 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.