The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has asked the Presidential Election Petition Court to dismiss a petition filed by Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, saying the reliefs sought are not grantable.
INEC, the 1st respondent, stated this in its reply filed on Monday night at the PEPC’s Secretariat by its lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, in Abuja.
The commission prayed the court to either “dismiss or strike out the petition for being grossly incompetent, abusive, vague, nebulous, generic, general, non-specific, ambiguous, equivocal, hypothetical and academic.”
Mr Obi, the 1st petitioner, and LP, the 2nd petitioner, had sued INEC, Bola Tinubu, Kashim Shettima and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as 1st to 4th respondents respectively.
The petitioners are seeking the nullification of the election victory of Tinubu and Shettima in the Feb 25 presidential poll.
Mr Tinubu, who defeated 17 other candidates who took part in the election, scored a total of 8,794,726 votes, the highest of all the candidates.
While former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came second with 6,984,520 votes in the poll; Mr Obi came third with 6,101,533 votes.
Mr Abubakar and PDP are also challenging the outcome of the poll in a separate petition.
However, in the petition marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023 filed by Mr Obi and LP’s lead counsel, Livy Ozoukwu, they contended that Mr Tinubu “was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election.”
The petitioners claimed there was rigging in 11 states, adding that they would demonstrate this in the declaration of results based on the uploaded results.
They said INEC violated its own regulations when it announced the result despite the fact that at the time of the announcement, the totality of the polling unit results had yet to be fully scanned, uploaded and transmitted electronically as required by the Electoral Act, among others.
In its notice of preliminary objection, INEC argued that the grounds on which the petition was based were defective, having regard to the vague and imprecise averments supporting the said grounds.
It said that the ground of the petitioners bordering on non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and corrupt practices did not disclose a reasonable cause of action for failure to plead specific particulars and figures as to how the alleged non-compliance complained of substantially affected the results of the election.
It said in view of the above argument, “Prayers 3, 5(i) and 5(11) of the petition predicated on the ground of non-compliance in Paragraph 20(11) of the petition are ungrantable.”
It further said that the ground of the petition that Mr Tinubu was not elected by majority of lawful votes cast as contained in Paragraph 20(iii) of the petition was defective for failure to plead the alleged unlawful votes to be deducted and/or lawful votes to be credited to the petitioners.
INEC argued that the petitioners’ prayer to declare that Mr Obi scored majority of lawful votes cast at the election and be declared winner was defective for failure to join necessary parties and for lack of requisite particulars and pleading to support the same.
The commission said that though Mr Obi was a candidate at the election, it however disagreed that he has a right to be returned as elected, “not having polled majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and /or secured one quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all states in the federation and the FCT.”
The commission said all political parties intending to sponsor candidates in the election were required to submit lists of their agents and they were expected to observe the election process at their units, sign and collect result sheets on behalf of their political parties at the close of polls.
It argued that some of the political party agents whose names were on the list submitted to it were however absent at their polling units while some others who were present neglected to participate in the election process.
According to INEC, the petitioners (Obi and LP) did not have polling agents in all the polling units across Nigeria as they only submitted a list of 134, 874 polling agents which is 41, 972 short of the 176, 846 polling units across Nigeria.
It disagreed with the petitioners, insisting that they were not represented in many or some of the polling units in the country.
The commission argued that while Shettima, the vice president-elect, was duly nominated and sponsored to contest the election, it also said that Messrs Tinubu and Shettima were duly declared and returned as elected and issued Certificates of Return having fulfilled the requirements of the constitution to be declared winners and returned.