The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, 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 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 lawful votes cast at the election, Tinubu has properly declared the 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 the winner of the election, considering that he “scored the 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 votes 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 states to wit: Adamawa, Akwa Ibom. 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 voters electronically and uploading scanned copies of polling unit election results to the IRev portal.”
INEC also asserted that uploading election results to the IReV 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.