In a significant turn of events, the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja has dismissed the Allied Peoples Movement’s (APM) case, which aimed to nullify President Bola Tinubu’s election. This pivotal ruling has stirred substantial discussions in the political sphere and has raised questions about the competence of the petition. Let’s delve into the details and implications of this crucial judgment.
The APM had filed a petition challenging President Bola Tinubu’s election, claiming issues related to his qualification to contest the presidential election held on February 25. However, the PEPC has categorically dismissed the petition on the grounds of incompetence.
The PEPC’s Ruling
Justice Haruna Tsammani, the Chairman of the PEPC panel, delivered the ruling, which was based on preliminary objections raised by the Respondents to challenge the competence of the APM’s petition. The core arguments and conclusions of the ruling are as follows:
The PEPC pointed out that the issues raised by the APM in its petition predominantly pertained to pre-election matters. These pre-election matters, according to the court, should have been addressed in the Federal High Court, as they fell outside the purview of the Presidential Election Petition Court.
Justice Tsammani emphasized that the APM lacked the “locus standi” to challenge President Tinubu’s nomination for the presidential election. According to the court, the APM should have taken legal action within 14 days after Tinubu was nominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Supreme Court Precedent
The PEPC cited a previous Supreme Court decision, which held that a political party does not possess the right to challenge the nomination made by another political party. This legal precedent further weakened the APM’s case.
The court highlighted the constitutional provisions that govern the qualification and nomination of candidates in an election. Sections 131 and 237 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provide the framework for assessing a candidate’s eligibility.
Since the APM failed to challenge President Tinubu’s nomination within the constitutionally allowed period, the court declared that the case had become statute barred. In essence, the opportunity to challenge Tinubu’s nomination had expired.
Constitution as the Ultimate Authority
The PEPC stressed that when the constitution qualifies a candidate for an election, no other law can disqualify that candidate except the constitution itself. This reaffirmed the inviolability of constitutional provisions regarding candidacy.
The court dismissed the APM’s argument about double nomination as a legally non-cognizable ground for disqualification. This assertion further weakened the APM’s case.
Regarding the inclusion of Mr. Ibrahim Masari as the 5th Respondent in the petition, the court found no reason for his involvement in the case, as the outcome would not affect him. Consequently, his name was struck out from the petition.
In its petition, marked as CA/PEPC/04/2023, the APM contended that the withdrawal of Mr. Masari, initially nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC, invalidated Tinubu’s candidacy. The party argued that a gap of approximately three weeks existed between Masari’s expression of withdrawal, the actual withdrawal of his nomination, and Tinubu’s replacement of him with Senator Kashim Shettima.
The APM further asserted that as of the time Tinubu nominated Shettima as the Vice Presidential candidate, he was no longer constitutionally eligible to make such a nomination, as per the provisions of section 142 of the 1999 Constitution.
The party’s argument hinged on the joint ticket principle enshrined in the Constitution, which, in their view, was activated by Masari’s initial nomination and invalidated by his subsequent withdrawal.
The Court’s Rejection
The PEPC, in its ruling, rejected the APM’s pleas for the court to declare Shettima unqualified to contest as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC as of February 25, the date of the election. The court also dismissed the request to nullify all the votes scored by Tinubu in the presidential election and set aside the Certificate of Return issued to him by INEC. These reliefs were categorically rejected by the court.
In conclusion, the PEPC’s ruling has significant implications for the political landscape, particularly in relation to the eligibility of candidates in presidential elections. It reaffirms the supremacy of the constitution in matters of candidacy and the importance of adhering to legal timelines for addressing pre-election matters.
This development underscores the need for political parties to carefully navigate the nomination process and adhere to constitutional provisions to ensure the validity of their candidates’ qualifications. As the political discourse continues to evolve, this case serves as a reminder of the intricacies and legal nuances that shape the electoral landscape in Nigeria.