Alex Enumah in Abuja
Despite what was termed as comprehensive reports by the European Union (EU) and Economic Community of West African State on their findings on the February 25 presidential elections, a senior judge has ruled that they were ‘valueless’ and ‘inadmissible’.
Justice Moses Ugo of the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) in Abuja said this while reading his ruling as a member of the court last Wednesday.
Recall that the five-member panel on the PEPC had dismissed the appeals filed by three opposition parties against the election of President Bola Tinubu.
While declaring support for his fellow judges on the panel, Justice Ugo spoke on why the EU and ECOWAS reports which criticised parts of the 2023 presidential election were inadmissible in court.
“The EU-EOM report on the 2023 presidential elections… and I dare to add even the ECOWAS report of the same elections tendered by second and third respondents is completely valueless and inadmissible…,” he said.
The EU and ECOWAS delegations were among the organisations accredited to observe Nigeria’s elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
After the presidential election, the European Union Election Observation Missions (EU-EOM), in its final report on the 2023 presidential poll, said though the elections showed the commitment of Nigerians to democracy, it also exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signalled a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability.
In his ruling, Justice Ugo, according to Premium Times, said the EU report tendered by both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, was inadmissible since the makers of the report did not present themselves in court to face cross-examination to authenticate their opinions.
“The impression given by both petitioners is that the said report is like the gospel truth of what happened in the election and so must be accepted by this court and the conduct of the presidential election declared corrupt or at the very least declared below par regardless of whether or not the authors of the said report presented themselves in court to defend their opinions,” the judge ruled.
All the five members of the PEPC had unanimously affirmed Tinubu as the validly elected President of Nigeria, a judicial resolution of the credibility questions that had hovered around his election for over six months.
In its over-12-hour-long judgment, the panel of judges led by Justice Haruna Tsammani dismissed all three petitions challenging Tinubu’s election in his lead judgment.
The other members of the panel – Justice Stephen Adah, Justice Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf, Justice Moses Ugo, and Abbah Mohammed – took their turns to adopt the reasoning and conclusion of the lead judgment.
The petitioners were Atiku of the PDP, who was declared as the first runner-up in the election; Peter Obi of the Labour Party, the second runner-up, and the All Peoples Movement (APM).
The panel unanimously stressed the total lack of credible evidence adduced by the petitioners to support their cases and described some of the legal arguments of Atiku and Obi as “fallacious and ridiculous”.
“From the foregoing, therefore, it is very clear and certain that the petitioners have failed to prove that the 2023 presidential election and the return of the 2nd respondent (Tinubu) were invalidated because of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022,” Justice Tsammani declared.
Atiku, Obi, and their political parties have since rejected the verdict.
They have also instructed their lawyers to appeal the judgment