The All Progressives Congress, on Monday, asked the presidential election petition court to dismiss the Labour Party and its presidential candidate Peter Obi’s petition against President-elect Bola Tinubu.
The APC, the fourth respondent, urged the court to reject the petition in its notice of preliminary objection marked CA/PEPC/03/2023 and filed at the court’s secretariat Monday night by Thomas Ojo, a member of the party’s legal team led by Lateef Fagbemi, in Abuja.
The party asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost because it lacked merit and was frivolous.
Mr Obi, the first petitioner, and Labour Party, the second petitioner, had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Tinubu, Vice-President-elect Kashim Shettima and APC as first to fourth respondents, respectively.
The petitioners are seeking the nullification of the election victory of Messrs Tinubu and Shettima in the February 25 presidential election.
In the petition marked CA/PEPC/03/2023 filed by Mr Obi and Labour Party’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.
Mr Obi and his party claimed that INEC violated its regulations when it announced the results even though the total polling unit results had not been fully scanned, uploaded and transmitted electronically as required by the Electoral Act.
Among other prayers, the petitioners urged the tribunal to “determine that, at the time of the presidential election held on February 25, 2023, the second and third respondents (Messrs Tinubu and Shettima) were not qualified to contest the election.
“That it be determined that all the votes recorded for the second respondent in the election are wasted votes, owing to the non-qualification of the second and third respondents. That it be determined that on the basis of the remaining votes (after discountenancing the votes credited to the second respondent), the first petitioner (Mr Obi) scored a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and had not less than 25 per cent of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of the states of the federation and the FCT and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election,” stated the petition.
It asked the tribunal to determine that Mr Tinubu, “having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the presidential election in the FCT, was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on February 25.”
Responding, the APC urged the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that Mr Obi, the first petitioner, lacked requisite locus standi to institute the petition because he was not a member of the Labour Party at least 30 days to the party’s presidential primary to be validly sponsored by the party.
“The first petitioner (Mr Obi) was a member of PDP until May 24, 2022. The first petitioner was screened as a presidential aspirant of the PDP in Apni 2022. The first petitioner participated and was cleared to contest the presidential election while being a member of the PDP,” APC argued. “First petitioner purportedly resigned his membership of PDP on May 24, 2022, to purportedly join the 2nd petitioner (Labour Party) on May 27, 2022.”
It alleged that Labour Party, the second petitioner, “conducted its presidential primary on May 30, 2022, which purportedly produced the first petitioner as its candidate, which time contravened Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act for him to contest the primary election as a member of the second petitioner.”
APC argued that Mr Obi was not a member of the Labour Party as of the time of his alleged sponsorship, arguing that “by the mandatory provisions of Section 77 (1) (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2022, a political party shall maintain a register and shall make such register available to INEC not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses and convention.”
It stated further that all the PDP’s presidential candidates were screened on April 29, 2022, an exercise in which Mr Obi participated and was cleared to contest while a party member.
According to APC, Mr Obi and Labour’s petition was incompetent since Mr Obi’s name could not have been in the party’s register made available to INEC when he joined the party.
The APC argued that the petition was improperly constituted, having failed to join Mr Abubakar and PDP.
“By Paragraph 17 of the petition, the petitioners, on their own, stated that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came second in the presidential election with 6,984,520 votes as against the petitioners who came third with 6,101,533 votes; at Paragraph 102 (iti) of the petition, the petitioners urged the tribunal to determine that 1st petitioner scored the majority of lawful votes without joining Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the petition,” the APC stated.
It added, “For the tribunal to grant prayer (iii) of the petitioners, the tribunal must have set aside the scores and election of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must be heard before his votes can be discountenanced by the tribunal.”
The party said the petition and the identified paragraphs were in breach of the mandatory provisions of Paragraph 4(1)(D) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
According to APC, paragraphs 60 — 77 of the petition are non-specific, vague and/or nebulous and thereby incompetent contrary to paragraph 4(1)(d) of the Ist Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
It said the allegations of non-compliance must be made distinctly and proved on a polling unit basis, but none was specified or provided in any of the paragraphs of the petition.
“Paragraphs 59-60 of the petition disclose no identity or particulars of scores and polling units supplied in 18,088 units mentioned therein,” it added.
The party, therefore, argued that the tribunal lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain pre-election complaints embedded in the petition as presently constituted, among other arguments. The APC urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost as it is devoid of any merit and founded on frivolity.