Gov Peter Obi’s legal challenge of the INEC declaration of Gov Bola Tinubu as President suffered a setback this morning at the Supreme Court.

The court knocked down a similar appeal on double nomination argued by the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

Obi has made the argument before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) one of the grounds for disputing INEC’s announced result.

Atiku however filed his appeal before the 18 February election, and it has travelled through a high court and the Court of Appeal before it arrived the Supreme Court.

The matter was variously dismissed at the lower courts before the final appeal to the Supreme Court.

Atiku argued that Kashim Shettima, Tinubu’s running mate, held double nomination as Senatorial and Vice Presidential candidates of his party.

His lawyers quoted Sections 29(1) 33, 35, and 84(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act to show that it is illegal for an individual to hold double nominations in the same election cycle.

Doing so, they argued, conflicts with the law and therefore ought to render both Tinubu’s and Shettima’s nominations invalid.

They urged the Supreme Court not only to declare the Tinubu/Shettima nomination invalid but to also compel INEC to expunge their names from its list of candidates for elections.

In reply, the Tinubu legal team challenged the Atiku position with the provisions of Section 285 (14) C of the 1999 Constitution and Section 149 of the Electoral Act.

Both sections, they said, forbid opposing candidates from challenging what any other party does because it is their internal matter.

The Tinubu team therefore argued that Atiku and the PDP had no legal right to challenge the APC’s nomination process.

In their unanimous ruling, the justices this morning agreed that Atiku and the PDP have no legal right to challenge the APC nomination process.

Justice Adamu Jauro who read the lead judgement maintained that only a member of a party that contested the primaries has a legal right to challenge the process.

Background to the Arguments

Atiku wanted Tinubu and his running mate, Shettima, disqualified because Shettima was nominated twice in one constituency.

He said Shettima was holding APC’s Borno Central Senatorial Ticket when he accepted to serve as Tinubu’s running mate, rather than resign one to pick the other as required by law.

The sections he quoted render a nomination invalid where a candidate holds two tickets in a similar election.

The Supreme Court however ruled that Section 84 only allowed aspirants who participated in the primary election of their party to challenge candidates nominated within their party.

The justices also said Atiku and the PDP failed to show how they suffered an injury as a result of the APC nomination. Neither did they prove that any of their civil rights and obligations were about to be infringed upon, Justice Jauro said.

Harsh words

The justices berated the Atiku-PDP team in very strong words and equally fined them N2million to be paid as damages to Mr. Tinubu and his running mate

They maintained that the law does not permit a political party to dabble in the domestic affairs of another political party.

Doing so can be likened to the actions of “a nosy busy-body and a meddlesome Interloper that is peeping into the affairs of its neighbour.”

Atiku’s appeal, they said was therefore “frivolous and capable of exposing the judiciary to public ridicule.”

Justice Jauro said he was satisfied that Shettima withdrew his candidature on 6 July 2022.

“In whatever angle this appeal is viewed, it is frivolous and bound to fail.

“From the trial courts, down to this court, it has been a waste of precious judicial time.

“The instant appeal was unnecessary and (Atiku’s) counsel should do better to advise their client against filing this sort of suit in future.”

Ruling injures Obi’s appeal

The ruling knocks off one of the planks of the Peter Obi and the Labour Party challenge of INEC-declaration of Tinubu as President by INEC.

The other legs of this challenge, currently before the Presidential Election Petition Court include:

  • That Tinubu was indicted on drug matters, leading to forfeiture of $460,000 to a court in the United States and is therefore legally ineligible to contest the election;
  •  That in many polling areas nationwide, INEC tampered with the results of the election, which should have put him in first position rather than third;
  • That INEC did not follow the law and its own set rules in managing the process leading to and including the declaration of a winner.

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