The Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Tuesday reserved judgement in the petition filed by the labour party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi challenging the 2023 presidential elections.
The five-man panel of justices led by Justice Haruna Tsammani adjourned the matter for judgement at a date that would be communicated to all parties after they adopted their final written addresses and made their final arguments.
In his final argument, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abubakar Mahmoud argued that the Electoral Act 2022 did not necessarily prescribe that the deployment of technology applications will replace the manual collation process.
On the issue of non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral Act raised by the petitioners, Mahmoud said the petitioner misunderstood what was introduced and have contrived in their minds that there is electronic collation system but said what was in place was the manual collation process and the IREV portal was just part of efforts to enhance credibility of the process .
He said the applications were tested repeatedly, but unfortunately suffers glitches that lasted 4 hours and 50 minutes
Continuing, Mahmoud said the petitioners have not presented any evidence to establish that the glitch occurred as a result of human interference .
“My submission is that if the petitioner are alleging that there was human interference then they just establish it,” he said.
“Transmission is simply to enhance credibility and not impact on the election and the petitioners failed to show how the failure to upload in real time impacted on the election.”
Mahmoud also argued that the over 18,000 result sheet tendered by the petitioners does not in any way show that the original copies were blurred and does not impact the election , but was simply for dramatization, and has no other merit.
He stressed that the electronic glitch cannot impact on the election and urged the court to dismiss the petition for lacking merit.
On the issue of 25 percent votes for FCT, Mahmoud said the interpretation of section 134 of the constitution that only a candidate who scored 25 % votes can be declared winner will lead to absurdity and will elevate FCT and its residents to a status that is unconstitutional.
“The provision of the constitution is straightforward, FCT is to be taken as a state”, he said.
Wole Olanipekun, counsel to President Bola Tinubu and vice President Kashim Shettima also argued that the upload of result to IREV is not part of collation process for the purpose of declaration of results.
On the alleged 25 %required in FCT, Olanipekun said, “what the constitution is taking about is votes scored. From the votes declare, the second responder scored more than 1/4 of the 2/3rds of the votes scored in FCT. The petitioners have no locus standi to ask for the interpretation of section 134 of ten constitution because he cannot partake in an “unlikely” rerun. The constitution clearly states the candidate shall be the candidates who scored highest number of votes and one among the remaining candidates who has a majority of votes in the highest number of states.”
In his final argument, counsel to the All progressives congress, Lateef Fagbemei described the petition as ambitious.
He argued that the FCT does not enjoy any special status as far as elections are concerned especially presidential. He argued that the presidential candidate of the APC met all the requirements after securing 25 percent of votes in 29 states.
“That suffices and to do otherwise will amount to constitutional absurdity”, he said.
In his argument, Livy Uzoukuwu, counsel to the petitioners said all respondents have tried in vain to degrade and diminish the importance of IREV, insisting that it is part of the electoral process
On the 18,000 blurred results sheets uploaded and certified by INEC, he said INEC failed to produce original realists.
“There is no defence , they are saying that printing toner or glitch could have blurred the results “ he said.
During interview with journalists after the proceedings, Uzoukwu reacting to Tinubu’s statement that he cannot partake in rerun argued that it is only the Labour Party that met tej 25% requirement in FCT and even surpassed it
“It is a constitutional issue, we will address it constitutionally, it’s for they court to decide . We have sufficiently presented our case case in a most convincing way”he added.
“They are relying on 18,000 blurred results to declare somebody winner , how can an electoral umpire certify blurred results? The should stop taking Nigeria for granted”, he further said.