Tinubu closes defence, tenders register to dispute Obi’s LP membership

PRESIDENT Bola Ahmed Tinubu has closed his defence against the petition filed to challenge his victory in the 2023 presidential election by Labour Party (LP) candidate, Peter Obi.

During the continuation of hearing by the Presidential Election Petition Court on Wednesday, July 5, Tinubu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the President and Vice President Kashim Shettima, the second and third respondents, have closed their cases after adopting the written statement of their sole witness, Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele.

Bamidele is the Senate Majority Leader, representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District of Ekiti State.

Earlier, Olanipekun, tendered 18 documents as exhibits before the tribunal presided over by Haruna Tsammani.

One of the documents presented alleged that Obi was not a registered member of the LP when he contested the presidential election. The document was a copy of the LP membership register for Anambra State, accompanied by a letter from the LP dated April 25, 2022, which forwarded the membership register to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Among the tendered documents were Tinubu’s Nigerian passports issued on February 2, 2011, and November 20, 2019, his US visa issued on February 4, 2011, and Kashim Shettima’s acknowledgement copy of voluntary withdrawal of candidacy from the Borno Central Senatorial District election, dated February 6, 2023.

Additionally, 12 documents certifying Tinubu’s educational record from Chicago State University were tendered. Copies of letters exchanged between the Nigeria Police Force and the US Embassy regarding alleged criminal records of Tinubu in the US over alleged drug trafficking were also presented. The US consulate allegedly cleared Tinubu of any criminal conviction or arrest in the US in the said letter dated February 4, 2003.

Obi’s counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, objected to the admissibility of the documents, while INEC and the All Progressive Congress (APC) consented to their admissibility.

During his testimony, Opeyemi asserted that the votes Tinubu received in Kano State were not properly recorded, claiming a shortfall of about 10,929 votes. He noted that several international bodies, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had submitted reports on the election.

He said that the ECOWAS report, dated February 27 was signed by former President of Sierra Leone Ernest Koroma.

Under cross-examination by APC counsel Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Opeyemi stated that the list of LP members forwarded to INEC before the presidential election did not include Obi’s name.

In a counter move, Uzoukwu, through the witness, presented the final report of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, which faulted the conduct and outcome of the 2023 general elections.

Despite objections from the respondents, the court admitted a certified copy of the EU report as an exhibit.

The witness also read a portion of the ECOWAS report, which he tendered as evidence, highlighting wanton destruction of property and killings leading up to the elections, including the murder of an LP senatorial candidate in Enugu State. However, the witness disagreed with this aspect, asserting that the killings in the South-East were a result of the IPOB situation, not the election.

Regarding Tinubu’s alleged involvement in drug-related crimes, the witness clarified that the decision made by the US Court was related to a civil proceeding, not a criminal forfeiture.

However, during questioning by Obi’s lawyer, Bamidele admitted that the alleged forfeiture was indeed related to narcotics dealing. He also acknowledged his understanding that money laundering played a role in the matter prior to the final forfeiture.

The Tribunal, relying on paragraph 46 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, directed the respondents to file their final briefs of argument within 10 days. The petitioners were given seven days to file their own briefs, and upon receipt of the petitioners’ process, the respondents were instructed to file their replies within five days.

The Tribunal announced that the date for the adoption of all the processes leading to the final judgment in the case would be communicated to all parties involved.

INEC had declared Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.

According to INEC, Tinubu secured 8,794,726 votes to come first, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finished second with 6,984,520, while Obi polled 6,101,533 to come third.

Displeased with the results, Obi and his party filed a petition at the court to challenge Tinubu’s victory.

In their petition, Obi and the LP argued that when Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim Shettima, became the vice presidential candidate, he was still nominated as the APC candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial election.

They also challenged Tinubu’s eligibility, alleging that he was previously indicted and fined $460,000.00 by a United States District Court for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.

Obi claimed that the election was invalid due to corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.






     

     

    He argued that INEC breached its regulations and guidelines by not prescribing and deploying technological devices for voter accreditation, verification, continuation, and authentication as required.

    The petitioner sought a declaration from the court that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election and that all votes recorded for him were wasted.

    He also requested the court to determine that he received a majority of lawful votes and satisfied constitutional requirements to be declared the winner.

    In the alternative, he called for the cancellation of the election and the conduct of a fresh election in which Tinubu, Shettima, and the APC would not participate.

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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