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PEPT Judgment Unassailable, Thorough, Difficult To Overturn — SANs

Following the judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) on Wednesday, in the petitions filed by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP) and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), winner of the February 25 presidential poll, some Senior advocates of Nigeria have hailed the decision of the Court, reports Nigerian Tribune.

In their reactions, the senior lawyers described the decisions of the tribunal as correct, true reflection of the principles of law and in accordance with the established principles of law that govern and underpin election litigations in Nigeria.

A senior lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), described the verdict of the Presidential Election tribunal, which upheld the election of President Bola Tinubu as a true reflection of the principles of law that govern and underpin election litigations in Nigeria.

He commended the diligence, undaunted thoroughness, and professionalism of the five-member bench, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani in interpreting the law.

He however said parties who are dissatisfied are at liberty to proceed to the Supreme Court to test the decisions of the Tribunal.

“The learned justices on the Tribunal’s Bench examined and resolved all the issues of law and fact in favour of the Respondents after considering the evidence led and the applicable laws.

“For instance, the Tribunal decided that the second Respondent was qualified to contest the presidential election and that the Order for forfeiture made by the Court in Illinois, United States of America was not a conviction within the contemplation of the provisions of section 137 of the Constitution of Nigeria.

“The Tribunal held that the Petitioners failed to prove that the President was convicted in the United States of America as alleged in their respective petitions. The Tribunal equally decided that INEC has the discretion on how to transmit election results.

“In my view, the judgement accords with the established principles of law that govern and underpin election litigations in Nigeria. I believe that the parties will proceed to the Supreme Court to test the decisions of the Tribunal. I will encourage all the parties and their supporters to abide by the decisions of the courts in this and all regards.

“I must confess that the judgments delivered by the Tribunal are unassailable. The basis for the resolution of all the issues of law and facts formulated by the parties are consistent with the body of judicial precedents on all the points.

“The decisions are, therefore, correct. However, the petitioners can still pursue their respective remedies to the Supreme Court as is customary in electoral disputes of this magnitude.

“I will want to appreciate the learned justices for the rare industry applied in writing and delivering the judgments. This is rare in the annals of modern judicial history in the common law jurisdictions. The decisions will for a long time to come, serve as a veritable guide for lawyers, administrators and politicians involved in electoral processes in Nigeria and, perhaps, beyond,” he said.

Also speaking in an interview, 85-year-old Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), who had witnessed many tribunals in the course of his career, described the judgment as the best the country has ever had.

Chief Clarke, while reacting to the Labour Party counsel’s assertion that if care isn’t taken, electoral jurisprudence may disappear in Nigeria, stated that “I don’t know where he learnt his jurisprudence from but I can assure you, that is a fallen man’s take.

“These two judgments I have heard today are the best best judgements I think this country has ever had; it is a good thing that these two judgments today are being broadcasted live so that you and I and those who aren’t knowledgeable in the law will understand what is at stake in the country.

“These two judgments have greatly enriched the jurisprudence of this country despite or in spite of what the Labour might say and I can tell you that I can boast of learning tonight what I normally teach my young lawyers that you win or lose on your pleadings. The two judgments, especially Atiku’s case, shows you that pleadings were the cause of the loss. In Atiku’s case, the pleadings were rough and inadequate,” he said.

Chief Yomi Alliyu (SAN) on his part, said the judges did a good job and were thorough in their decisions. He added that, “I was involved in the matter and as such people might see me as biased. However, one thing is certain, that judgment was thorough.

“I had at one time or the other appeared before these judges at either the High Court or Court of Appeal. They are renowned perfectionists. They must have been deliberately and consciously selected by the President of the Court of Appeal with a fine tooth comb!

“The judgment is like sculptures in the hands of master craftsmen. It was concise, accurate and all embracing! It will be a recurrent nightmare to lawyers who think cases could be won by intimidating and/or blackmailing judges. The so-called obidients not only placed billboards intimidating the judiciary as represented by Justices in the petition but they went as far as threatening members of their immediate families including their grandchildren!

“They located the shop of one of the Justices at Wuse in Abuja and told her that they would buy all her wares out in a day if her father gave judgment to their candidates or woe betide her if otherwise. These are all on public media.

No doubt, these people do not know the type of Justices on the panel! The country owes them appreciation for not only putting their lives on the line but those of their families.

“The judgment is locus classicus, first of its type! The 12 hours of its reading is unprecedented in my 39 years of practice. The industry is unparalleled. The rendition is sonorous like a mum’s lullaby forcing some petitioners’ counsel to slumber whilst the inputs as in exposition of principles of law is legendary.

“One could not expect less because the three gladiators employed the services of the best lawyers in the country with PBAT having 60 of them led by Primus inter Peres, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, himself!

“If I advise the losers not to go to the Supreme Court, it will be a disservice to not only democracy but also development of the jurisprudence of election in the country. Those new principles enunciated in the judgment must be tested and finalised by the apex Court. In all, justice has been served and done!” he reiterated.

Dave Ajetomobi, a former chairman of Ikeja NBA said, “I believe that their Lordships took their time to carry out detailed examination of the cases presented by the parties yesterday because they are aware of the hullabaloo some ethnic social media warlords have created. To me they did a good job so much that the Apex court will have a great problem overturning the verdict of the lower court. They refused to summarize their findings so as to foreclose speculations by the fanatical supporters of a candidate.”

On his part however, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said it is a period for sober reflection, adding that the verdict could not have been otherwise.

According to him, “the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court was not totally unexpected, given the stark realities facing us as a nation and the state of the law. The principles of presumption of regularity of elections and that of substantial conformity make it extremely difficult to prosecute elections successfully.

“In this particular case, the burden placed upon the petitioners in order to upturn the election was practically insurmountable. To make matters worse, INEC practically fought the petitioners to a standstill, as if it was an interested party in the whole process.

“I honestly don’t think anyone expected a different verdict from what was delivered in Abuja today, particularly the lawyers. The tension was completely unnecessary.

“This is why we emphasize always that the focus of anyone hoping to birth a true change in our electoral history should be on the electoral umpire. Without first unbundling INEC to make it more independent, non-partisan and effective, anyone declared “winner” will most often coast to victory in the election tribunal.

“Today’s verdict should be a reason for sober reflection by all, especially for the parties in court, their lawyers and all lovers of democracy. The petitions could have been decided purely on points of law and within a few days of the election.

“There can be no real victory in the resolution of the legal issues by the court when the fabric of our democratic engagements seems to have been hijacked and compromised. Part of the lesson in this process is for us to go back and review the electoral process and the litigations following it. INEC as it is presently constituted cannot birth any credible election in Nigeria.

“In all, maybe there was too much expectation that the status quo will be upturned, whereas many of the principles of law canvased had long been settled by the apex court.

“While encouraging all parties to continue in towing the paths already defined by law for the ventilation of grievances, we owe Nigeria an urgent duty to dismantle INEC, urgently,” he added.



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