Today is Final Decision Day on Nigeria’s Presidential Election following the surprise announcement by the nation’s apex court that it would deliver its judgment this Thursday, amid whispers that it is coming five days before the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) begins to unbundle into the public domain information it has on Nigeria’s sitting President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Supreme Court will deliver judgement in the cases filed by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar and the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Bola Tinubu.
The judgement date was confirmed by all parties involved on Wednesday.
But on X, as Twitter is now known, Peter Obi called on the Nigerian judiciary to uphold democracy and the rule of law in the country.
Obi said only the judicial arm of the government could protect Nigerians from what he described as the tyranny of dubious and duplicitous identity fraudsters.
His words “Still on the identity crisis and controversies that have continued to haunt the Nigerian citadel of power since the February 25, 2023 presidential elections.
“There is this saying: ‘It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles’.
“The lofty titles that decorate people in power have little meaning if there is a hollowness and falsehood underneath them.
“Such titles which adorn those in public office mean nothing if they are not original and are fake if those who bear them have no honour to support the weight of the titles they carry.
“In situations where there is public doubt as to the veracity and authenticity of these titles and the claims behind them, it is the judiciary’s role, when called upon, to uphold the honour of the titles through transparent rulings.
“Only through such judicial interventions can the public be protected from the tyranny of dubious and duplicitous characters and identity fraudsters,” he added.
“The expectation by the high and low alike that their rights will be protected and respected by fair judges in transparent courts is what keeps citizens’ loyalty and belief in democracy.
“People, irrespective of their station in life, approach the courts whenever they feel their rights are assailed in the expectation that fair courts will render justice to them according to law.
“However, when the fairness of the judiciary is not assured and the transparency of judiciary operatives is uncertain, the rule of law will come under severe threat.”
The Supreme Court on Monday reserved judgments in the appeals filed by the presidential candidates challenging the declaration of President Bola Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
Atiku and Obi separately attacked the judgments of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), which dismissed their petitions instituted against the conduct of the 2023 presidential election and its outcome.
A 7-member panel of Justices of the Apex Court, headed by Justice John Inyang Okoro reserved judgments in the appeals after adoption of the processes filed in the matter.
At Monday’s proceedings, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) who led the legal team of Atiku and PDP informed the court of an interlocutory application seeking the leave of the court to present fresh evidence in the appeal.
The fresh evidence Atiku sought to tender are the academic records of Tinubu, which were handed over to him by the Chicago State University (CSU) on October 2, 2023.
The 32-page document was released to the former Vice President on the orders of Judge Nancy Maldonado of the District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division, Illinois, United States of America.
The US court had ordered the CSU to release the said documents to Atiku despite Tinubu’s objection because the court was convinced that it would help Atiku establish his allegation of forgery and lying on oath against Tinubu.
However, one of the Justices on the panel, Justice Emmanuel Agim told Atiku’s lead counsel that the deposition which he sought to tender as evidence was done in the chamber of lawyer to Atiku and not in the court as required by law.
Seeking further clarification, Justice Agim said, “I expected the College to write disclaiming the documents in dispute. Does a stenographer has the legal authority to administer oath. We are dealing with a matter that touches on the national interest of this country”.
In his response, Uche submitted that the legal system in the United States is different from that of English legal system which is practiced in Nigeria and confirmed that the depositions were made in the law chambers of Atiku’s American lawyer, with representation by Tinubu’s American lawyers.
He insisted that there was no conflicts or dispute over the legality of the depositions.
Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) raised an objection to the admissibility of the depositions saying such depositions has to be adopted by the individual that deposed to it before it can be admitted as evidence before a court.
In response, Uche argued that such is not the practice in foreign proceedings and clarified that the depositions was not based on a court order to clarify the discrepancies observed in the communication by the Chicago State University.
The presiding Justice, Justice Okoro observed that the issue of conflicting documents from the same institution is a serious criminal act which ought to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
After hearing the appellants’ motion to admit fresh evidence and the objections by the respondents, the court directed parties to adopt their briefs of arguments on the substantive appeal and thereafter reserved judgment to a date that would be communicated to parties.
Abubakar Mahmoud, Chief Olanipekun and Chief Akin Olujimi, all SAN, who represented INEC, Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC), listed as 1st to 3rd respondents had, in their preliminary objections urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit and misconceived.
In the same vein, the Apex Court also reserved judgment in the joint appeal filed by Obi and the Labour Party challenging the victory of Tinubu at the February 25 presidential election.
The court announced the reservation of the judgment after parties adopted their written addresses in the appeal.
While the lead counsel to Obi and his party, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) prayed the Apex Court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court, Abubakar Mahmoud, Olanipekun and Olujimi, respresenting INEC, Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima and the APC, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
In another development, the Apex Court on Monday, dismissed the appeal brought before it by the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) against the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) delivered on September 6.
The court dismissed the appeal following an application for its withdrawal by APM’s lead counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN).
APM had argued that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the February 25 presidential election, having violated the provisions of Section 142 (1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
The party also prayed for a declaration that the return of Tinubu by the INEC, as the President elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is null,void of no legal effect whatsoever.
That the withdrawal of the 5th respondent (Kabiru Masari), as Vice Presidential candidate to Tinubu by the operations of the law amounted to automatic withdrawal and invalidation of the candidate of the APC and asked for an order nullifying and voiding all votes scored by APC in the Presidential Election of February 25.
The party also applied for an order directing INEC to return the candidate with the second highest votes at the election as the winner of the presidential election.