After three weeks of legal fireworks sparked by the move by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi to invalidate the outcome of the 23 February election at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja, President Bola Tinubu and his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), are set to open their defence on Monday.
Atiku and Obi had last week Friday closed their cases at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) where they have challenged the conduct and outcome of the February 25 presidential election won by Tinubu and the PDP.
Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, also a respondent in the cases pending at the court, will commence its defence of the outcome of the election before the five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani on Monday.
National Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu had on March 1, announced Tinubu of the APC as winner ahead of 17 other candidates that contested the election.
INEC declared that Tinubu scored 8,794,726 votes to defeat the two major contenders, Atiku of the PDP, who polled 6,984,520 votes and Obi of LP with 6,101,533 votes.
Five petitions were filed at the court to challenge the election outcome in the wake of the announcement of the results. But the number of petitions dropped to three after two was withdrawn by those who filed them.
In their joint marked CA/PEPC/05/2023, the PDP and Atiku disputed the outcome of the election on the major grounds that INEC did not conduct the election in line with the Electoral Act (2022).
The petitioners went further and argued that INEC breached its earlier commitment to transmit the result of the presidential election electronically using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
Specifically, the petitioners accused INEC of rigging the entire process in favour of Tinubu and his APC party.
Proving electoral fraud in Nigeria is a herculean task, owing to the country’s vast electoral field, with 176,974 polling units as of the recent general election.
However, this year’s exercise was distinct owing to the level to which technology was deployed in the conduct of the election. Yet, the final collation and announcement of the presidential election results were delayed for almost a week.
The poll was held on 25 February across many states of the federation, but the exercise was rescheduled in other areas due to violence and logistical issues, leading to INEC’s eventual declaration of Tinubu winner of the poll on 1 March.