October 26, 2023

Breaking: Supreme Court rejects Atiku’s CSU evidence

Judges must be evaluated annually - Atiku

…says time for tendering of such evidence has expired

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA– The Supreme Court, on Thursday, rejected the application by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to be allowed to tender a copy of President Bola Tinubu’s certificate, which he obtained from the Chicago State University, CSU, in the United States of America, USA.

The apex court, in its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Okoro, held that the constitutionally allowed period for such evidence to be admitted had since elapsed.

It stressed that section 285(5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, expressly gave the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, a 180-day lifespan to hear and determine in writing, all petitions arising from the presidential election.

According to the apex court, considering that the PEPC, which sat as the court of first instance in the presidential dispute, had since delivered its verdict, no provision of the law would allow the admittance of any other evidence at the appeal stage.

It noted that the 180 dads donated to the tribunal by the Constitution, expired on September 17, adding that the Supreme Court no longer has the requisite jurisdiction to admit the document.

“This court cannot do what the trial court is no longer constitutionally permitted to do,” Justice Okoro held, adding that Atiku and the PDP could no longer invoke the provision of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act.

More so, the apex court noted that the issue of forgery which Atiku sought to establish through the proposed fresh evidence, was not pleaded in any paragraph of his appeal.

It held that the Appellants no longer had the time to amend their case since the 21 days allowed for those that were aggrieved with the outcome of the election to file a petition, had also elapsed.

“It is crystal clear that the additional evidence did not fit into issues for determination in this appeal.

“Therefore, this application is refused and accordingly dismissed,” the Supreme Court held.

Atiku had prayed the apex court to admit the fresh evidence which he said would establish that President Tinubu tendered forged certificate to the INEC, in aid of his qualification to participate in the election.

His lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, noted that though the 32-page document, released on the orders of Judge Nancy Maldonado of the District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division, Illinois, US, and handed over to his client on October 2, was not pleaded, he urged the court to admit it in evidence, in the interest of justice.

Uche, SAN, stressed that the issue surrounding the certificate that Tinubu purportedly obtained from the CSU, was weighty, saying there was the need for the apex court to focus on doing substantial justice in the matter instead of rejecting the evidence on the alter of technicalities.

On his part, President Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, urged the court to reject Atiku’s supposed fresh evidence against him.

He argued that the requisite condition precedent was not met by the Applicants to enable the apex court to be able to admit the documents in evidence.

More so, President Tinubu contended that contrary to Atiku’s claim, a deposition by a staff member of the CSU, which Atiku attached to support his application, was done in the Chambers of a private legal practitioner in the USA.

While INEC, through its lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, urged the court to reject Atiku’s plea to be allowed to tender the CSU certificate, insisting that the time allowed for hearing of the petition had expired.

Counsel to the APC, Mr. Akinola Olujimi, SAN, argued that Atiku’s application lacked merit and ought to be dismissed.