The Supreme Court on Monday reserved judgements in the appeals filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and that of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, challenging the declaration of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
Atiku and Obi separately attacked the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), which dismissed their petitions against the conduct of the 2023 presidential election and its outcome.
A seven-member panel of justices of the apex court, headed by Justice I. John Nyang Okoro, reserved judgements in the appeals for a date that would be communicated to parties after the adoption of the processes filed in the matter.
At Monday’s proceedings, Chief Chris Uche, who led the legal team of Atiku and PDP, informed the court of an interlocutory application seeking the leave of the court to present fresh evidence in the appeal.
The fresh evidence Atiku sought to tender is the academic record of Tinubu, handed over to him by Chicago State University (CSU) on October 2, 2023.
The 32-page document was released to the former Vice President on the orders of Judge Nancy Maldonado of the District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division, Illinois, United States of America.
The US court had ordered CSU to release the said documents to Atiku despite Tinubu’s objection because the court was convinced that it would help Atiku establish his allegation of forgery and lying on oath against Tinubu.
However, one of the justices on the panel, Justice Emmanuel Agim, told Atiku’s lead counsel that the deposition, which he sought to tender as evidence, was done in the chamber of lawyers to Atiku and not in the court as required by law.
Seeking further clarification, Justice Agim said: “I expected the college to write disclaiming the documents in dispute. Does a stenographer have the legal authority to administer oath? We are dealing with a matter that touches on the national interest of this country.”
In his response, Uche submitted that the legal system in the United States is different from that of the English legal system which is practised in Nigeria, and confirmed that the depositions were made in the law chambers of Atiku’s American lawyer, with representation by Tinubu’s American lawyer.
He insisted that there were no conflicts or disputes over the legality of the depositions.
Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun, raised an objection to the admissibility of the depositions, saying such depositions have to be adopted by the individual that deposed to them before they can be admitted as evidence before a court.
In response, Uche argued that such is not the practice in foreign proceedings and clarified that the depositions were not based on a court order to clarify the discrepancies observed in the communication by the Chicago State University.
The presiding justice, Justice Okoro, observed that the issue of conflicting documents from the same institution is a serious criminal act that ought to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
After hearing the appellants’ motion to admit fresh evidence and the objections by the respondents, the court directed the parties to adopt their briefs of arguments on the substantive appeal and thereafter reserved judgement for a date that would be communicated to the parties.
Abubakar Mahmoud, Chief Olanipekun, and Chief Akin Olujimi, who, respectively, represented INEC, Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), listed as 1st to 3rd respondents, had, in their preliminary objections, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit and being misconceived.
In the same vein, the apex court also reserved judgment in the joint appeal filed by Obi and the Labour Party challenging the victory of Tinubu at the February 25 presidential election.
The court announced the reservation of the judgement after the parties adopted their written addresses in the appeal.
While the lead counsel to Obi and his party, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, prayed to the apex court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgement of the lower court, Mahmoud, Olanipekun, and Olujimi, representing INEC, Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and APC, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking merit.
In another development, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the appeal brought before it by the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) against the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) delivered on September 6.
The court dismissed the appeal following an application for its withdrawal by APM’s lead counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume.
APM had argued that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the February 25 presidential election, having violated the provisions of Section 142 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
The party also prayed for a declaration that the return of Tinubu by INEC as the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is null and void; and that the withdrawal of the 5th respondent, Kabiru Masari, as Vice Presidential candidate to Tinubu, by the operations of the law, amounted to the automatic withdrawal and invalidation of the candidate of the APC. The party had asked for an order nullifying and voiding all votes scored by APC in the presidential election of February 25.
The party also applied for an order directing INEC to return the candidate with the second highest votes at the election as the winner of the presidential election.
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