The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has told the Presidential Election Petition Court that there was a glitch in the transmission of results to its result viewing portal I-Rev on February 25, 2023, the day the Presidential election held
It however submitted that the glitch was temporary and lasted just about four hours and fifty minutes
This was part of the final arguments put forward by INEC through its lawyer Abubakar Mahmoud on Tuesday as the parties adopted their written addresses to the petition filed by Atiku Abubakar and the PDP.
According to INEC, the fact that INEC deployed the BVAS technology was evidence of its good intention to make the elections credible
The INEC lawyer argued that contrary to claims by the Petitioner, the glitch was not a deliberate human interference to manipulate results, as even the petitioners’ witnesses had admitted during cross-examination that the process was smooth
On whether the declared winner won the requisite number of votes in the FCT, INEC argued that it will be illogical and absurd to interpret the constitution to make winning the FCT mandatory, since it would suggest that voters in the FCT have special status over and above other states.
Mahmoud finally asked the court to dismiss the petition by Atiku and the PDP for failing to prove the claims of non-compliance and corrupt practices.
Also in his final argument, Bola Tinubu described Atiku’s petition as a case of a meddlesome interloper. Tinubu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun anchored his submission on the grounds that while Atiku is challenging the conduct of INEC, it has not made any case against the declared winner, neither has he asked or stated why he (Atiku) deserved to be declared the winner
Tinubu also argued that contrary to the claims made by the petitioners, there was no electronic collation of results
Citing authorities of the Supreme Court of the United States in Al Gore vs George Bush, and the case of Buhari vs Obasanjo decided by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2004, Olanipekun prayed the court to interpret the constitution on the issue of the FCT conjunctively. He also asked the court to apply the reasoning of the Supreme Court in the case of Awolowo vs Shagari and interpret the FCT as a 37th state for the purpose of presidential election, arguing that going by that interpretation, Tinubu won one-quarter of two-thirds of votes in Abuja in the 2023 presidential election
For the APC, its final argument addressed the issue of Tinubu’s qualification raised by the petitioner. Its lead counsel Lateef Fagbemi argued that the word “fine” in section 137(1d) of the constitution is not synonymous with forfeiture and indictment.
Fagbemi also contended that even if it was, the said forfeiture happened almost 30 years ago, and that the constitution of Nigeria does not preach hatred
He similarly asked the court to ignore the allegation of Tinubu’s dual citizenship, on ground that once a person is a citizen of Nigeria by birth, the constitution cannot disqualify the person from contesting for political office, because he acquired the citizenship of another country.
Fagbemi also asked the court to dismiss the allegation that Tinubu forged a certificate from Chicago State University on grounds that the petitioners have not pleaded any oral or written testimony to disclaim Tinubu’s credentials.
Responding to the claims of INEC on the four hours glitch, the PDP referred to the submission made by INEC’s witness who said that National Assembly election results which held same day with the presidential election were transmitted seamlessly. Lead counsel Chris Uche insisted that the glitch in that of the presidential election was deliberate to manipulate the election results.
On the issue of FCT, counsel extracted an admission in the address of Tinubu where it was stated that 25% votes is a mandatory provision of the constitution and urged the court to give probative value to it.
Atiku’s lawyer went further to address the case of disqualification of Tinubu on the forfeiture of $460,000 linked to narcotics, by arguing that the effluxion of time does not run against crime.
But the court’s Presiding Justice Haruna Tsammani cautioned the lawyer from proceeding with that line of argument, saying those not familiar with the constitution may be misled.
Uche, however said he was only responding to the submission of the APC lead counsel Lateef Fagbemi who said there is forgiveness of sins, and submitted that even where there’s forgiveness of sins, there must be consequences for errors
He urged the court to exercise its discretion, do substantial justice and grant the prayers sought, by either declaring that Tinubu was not qualified, or that Atiku be declared winner or a rerun election ordered
The court has reserved judgment on a date to be announced later.
(EDITOR: TIENABESO BIBIYE)