The Independent National Electoral Commission has asked the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja to dismiss all the petitions challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
INEC had declared that Tinubu polled 8,794,726 votes to win the election.
The commission declared that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, came second with 6,984,520 votes, while it announced Labour Party’s Peter Obi as the second runner-up with 6,101,533 votes.
But Atiku, Obi and some other parties rejected the results announced by INEC and heeded for the tribunal with prayers that the election should be nullified.
All the opposition parties challenging Tinubu’s victory joined INEC as a co-defendant.
In its defence to the various petitions, filed through its team of lawyers led by A. B. Mahmoud (SAN), INEC described Atiku’s petition as “grossly incompetent, vague and academic, saying it was an abuse of the court process.”
INEC affirmed that having scored at least one-quarter of the valid votes cast in 29 states, which is over and above the 24 states threshold required by the constitution in addition to scoring the highest number of the lawful votes cast at the election, Tinubu was properly declared winner and returned as the President-elect.
On the issue of Tinubu not winning the FCT, INEC argued that going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, “the FCT has the status of a state and ought to be recognised as one of the states of the federation.”
INEC insisted that it declared Tinubu as winner of the election, considering that he “scored highest valid votes cast at the election and at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in not less than two-thirds of the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
“The 1st respondent pleads and shall at the trial of this suit rely on all the Electoral Forms including but not limited to Forms ECSA, BCSB, ECSC, ECSD and ECBE used in the course of the Presidential Election held on the 25th day of February 2023,” INEC said.
“The FCT, beyond being the capital of Nigeria, has no special status over and above the other 36 states of the federation to require a candidate in the presidential election to obtain at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in the FCT before being declared winner of the presidential election.
“The 1st respondent shall also contend at the trial of this suit that the FCT is regarded as the 37th state of the federation and as such, a candidate needs to score 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in at least two-thirds of 37 states to be declared as winner in the presidential election.
“The 1st respondent avers that the 2nd respondent scored 25 per cent of the valid in 29 states of the federation as stated above.”
Addressing Atiku’s petition, INEC told the tribunal that the PDP candidate could not have been declared winner as he failed to score at least one-quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation.
INEC also insisted that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
“The 1st respondent further avers that in compliance with extant laws and regulations, it diligently discharged its duties when it collated the 1st petitioner’s scores at the election, which aggregates to 6,984, 520, winning only 21 number of states to wit: Adamawa, Akwa lbom. Bauchi. 83) else. Bomo, Delta. Ekiti, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwam. Nasarawa, Niger, Osun, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.
“The 1st respondent avers that the petitioners who on the one hand, alleged various irregularities and non-compliance in the conduct of the election conveniently accepted the validity of their scores as declared by the 1st respondent, upon which they have prayed that the 1st petitioner be returned the winner of the election and sworn in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having purportedly scored the majority of votes cast.”
The electoral body said that it kept its promise to Nigerians “in conducting free, fair, transparent and credible elections by deploying the BVAS device in conducting accreditation of voter’s electronically and uploading scanned copies of polling unit election results to the IRev portal.”
INEC also asserted that uploading election results to the lReV portal is not a condition precedent to the declaration of the winner of an election under the Electoral Act.
“The Act does not require the 1st respondent to transmit results to the IRev portal before determining or declaring the winner of the presidential election.
“The 1st respondent states further that it had all the physical hard copies of the results sheets from which it collated and tabulated the scores of the candidates. It states further that the result sheets were uploaded via its e -transmission system to the IRev portal.
“In further answer to paragraph 21 of the petition, the 1st respondent states that the BVAS device was, despite the glitches experienced on the day of the presidential election, still a game changer.
“It was properly deployed and used to verify and accredit registered voters. It was also used to upload scanned copies of polling unit results through the e-transmission system to the IRev portal in the presidential election held on 25th February 2023.
“The 1st respondent further states that the BVAS device was not designed to and did not transmit election results to the phantom Electronic Collation System as alleged by the petitioners.
“The 1st respondent denies that it prescribed or established a system to electronically transfer or transmit the results and the accreditation data from polling units to an electronic collation system.”
Meanwhile, Tinubu’s party, the All Progressives Congress, has also urged the tribunal to dismiss the various petitions challenging its candidate’s victory.
Among other grounds, Tinubu’s challengers had insisted that he was not qualified to run for the presidential election, citing a forfeiture case against him in the US.
But in reply, the APC contended that much of the claims by the opposition parties were vague, bogus and speculative.
The APC admitted that Tinubu forfeited $460,000 to the US government, but it refuted the claim that the President-elect was convicted of a criminal offence.
“The 2nd respondent (Tinubu) was never at any point in time fined the sum of $460,000.00 for an offense involving dishonesty or any other offence in
United States of America Vs funds in account 263226700 held by First Heritage Bank in the name of Bola Tinubu,” it stated.
It argued that Tinubu “was never made a party in the said case No: 93C4483 between United States of America V Funds in Account 263226700 held by First Heritage Bank in the name of Bola Tinubu & 2 Ors.”
It stated that the said case was not a criminal matter that could have resulted in a criminal conviction.
Rather, the party asserted that it was a civil forfeiture proceeding against the funds in various accounts opened in Tinubu’s name.