Supreme Court reserves verdict on Atiku’s petition against Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar

The Supreme Court, on Monday, reserved its judgement on the appeal the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, filed to nullify the election of President Bola Tinubu.

A seven-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Inyang Okoro, okayed the matter for judgement, after all the parties adopted their briefs of argument.

Other members of the apex court panel that heard the matter, were; Justices Uwani Abba-Aji, Lawal Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Abubakar Tijjani and Emmanuel Akomaye Agim.

President Tinubu had during the proceedings, addressed the court on why it should not admit his certificate that was released to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, by the Chicago State University, CSU.

Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, argued that the foreign depositions that Atiku relied on to apply for the certificate to be admitted in evidence, was done in a private law chamber in the United States of America, USA.

He further argued that the requisite condition precedent was not met by the Applicants to enable the apex court to be able to admit the documents in evidence.

“In the USA, we have their rules, this depositions are not even admissible in their own courts! We have highlighted those rules in our counter affidavit.

“My lords, this is aside from the fact that the depositions were not done in the court, but in private chambers,” Olanipekun added.

More so, he argued that the 180 days period allowed for the hearing of the petition that Atiku and his party filed to nullify the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, had since elapsed.

He said it would therefore be wrong for the apex court to admit a fresh evidence at the stage of appeal, adding that Atiku ought to have joined the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as an interested party in the US proceedings.

“The Court of Appeal is a tribunal. The First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 as well as section 285 (13) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, is very clear.

“They merely went on a fishing expedition in the US. The evidence they are seeking to tender is not at large. It cannot be compartmentalize in any where.

“Even Alice in Wonderland knew where she was going. At least she was told where she was going.

“My Lords, this is an application that we believe is in Wonderland. It has no merit.

“The courts are bound by the law. The law is to be interpreted as it is and not as it ought to be,” Tinubu’s lawyer argued.

While INEC, through its lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, urged the court to reject Atiku’s plea to be allowed to tender the CSU certificate, insisting that the time allowed for hearing of the petition had expired.

Counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Akinola Olujimi, SAN, argued that Atiku’s application lacked merit and ought to be dismissed.

He contended that the requirement of the law was that there must be an order of a court in Nigeria before the CSU could be approached to release the certificate.

“Order 20 Rules 6 and 7 of FHC Rules, made provision for obtaining of depositions from foreign jurisdictions.

“They omitted that very fundamental step,” Olujimi, SAN, argued.

Meanwhile, counsel to Atiku and the PDP, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, argued that the apex court, as the custodian of the Constitution, should overlook technicalities and do justice in the matter by admitting the fresh evidence.

He maintained that the fact that the 180 days had elapsed should not tie the hands of the court.

More so, Uche, SAN, told the court that contrary to the position of the Respondents, the said foreign depositions were made in the Chambers because it was a venue that was agreed upon by parties and approved by the court.

He said the evidence obtained confirmed that the certificate that Tinubu presented to INEC, did not emante from the University.

Likewise, while Uche, SAN, urged the court to uphold the substantive appeal and nullify the presidential election, all the Respondents prayed the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC.

Earlier, Justice Okoro, who is heading the panel, stressed that the case was of great public importance.

However, he wondered if the evidence that Atiku is seeking to tender before the court, was not geared towards establishing an allegation that has elements of crime.

Justice Okoro noted that there were contradictory documents relating to the said CSU certificate.

“This is a criminal offence which ought to be resolved beyond reasonable doubt. So when you see this kind of discrepancies, I don’t know how we can resolve it.”

Continuing, he said: “This is a serious matter. It is not to admit the document that is difficult, but after that, what do we do with it.

“Are we going to draft a charge and ask someone, did you forge these documents?

“That notwithstanding, we are here to do justice and there is no room to cover anything,” Justice Okoro added.

The panel, thereafter, reserved it judgement till a date to be communicated to the parties.