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Peter Obi closes case against Tinubu with 13 witnesses

Peter Obi had proposed to call 50 witnesses but could only call 13 within the time allotted.

Photo- Peter Obi and Bola Tinubu

ByAmeh Ejekwonyilo

The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, on Friday, closed his case at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja with the 13 witnesses he called to prove his case against President Bola Tinubu’s election.

Mr Obi had proposed to call 50 witnesses but could only call 13 within the court allotted time. He also tendered tons of electoral documents.

Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, had declared Mr Tinubu the winner of the 25 February election.

Displeased with the results, Mr Obi, who came third in the election, filed a petition at the court to challenge Mr Tinubu’s victory.

He and his party filed the petition 20 days after Mr Tinubu was declared president-elect.

Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second at the polls, is also challenging the election outcome separately. He also closed his case on Friday with 27 witnesses, although he had proposed to call 100.

Both opposition candidates claim the presidency, alleging that Mr Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not win the election.

Resumed hearing

At the resumed hearing of Mr Obi’s suit on Friday, his lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), led Tanko Yunusa, a stalwart of the Labour Party, as a witness.

Mr Yunusa, a Peter Obi Presidential Campaign Council spokesperson, was cross-examined by INEC’s lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro, a SAN.

Mr Tinubu and APC’s lawyers, Wole Olanipekun and Lateef Fagbemi, both SANs, also took their turns to grill Mr Yunusa during the cross-examination session.

Mr Yunusa was asked if he knew about a Federal High Court decision that dismissed the Labour Party’s suit challenging vice president Kashim Shettima’s nomination because of the alleged double nomination. He responded, “No.”

A lawyer in Mr Obi’s legal team, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, a SAN, invited Peter Yari to the witness box as the 13th petitioner’s witness in the case.

Mr Yari was a presiding officer during the presidential election in Kaduna State. He adopted his witness statement on oath.

Under cross-examination by the respondents’ lawyers, Mr Yari said he had difficulty uploading the presidential election results on INEC’s Results Viewing Portal.

At the close of his testimony, Mr Obi’s lawyer, Mr Uzoukwu, told the court, “My Lords, that is the petitioners’ case.”

Afterwards, the court adjourned further hearing until 3 July for the respondents – Mr Tinubu, INEC and APC- to open their defence.

Background

Mr Obi came behind Atiku with 6,101,533 votes, while Mr Tinubu polled over 8.8 million.

As part of the grounds of the suit, Mr Obi argued that Mr Tinubu, “at the time of the (presidential) election, was not qualified to contest the election.”

Like Atiku, Mr Obi anchored his claim on the grounds that Mr Tinubu “was fined $460,000 for an offence involving dishonesty, namely narcotics trafficking imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in case no:93C 4483″ between the United States of America and Bola Tinubu.”

He further alleged the non-qualification of Mr Tinubu’s running mate, Mr Shettima, citing the nomination for two separate constituencies – as Borno Central senatorial candidate and vice-presidential candidate ”for the whole of Nigeria” in the same election cycle.

Subsequently, Mr Obi put forward five prayers in court. Three of them are alternative prayers to the two main ones.

In his two main prayers, he urged the court to declare Mr Tinubu and his running mate, Mr Shettima, unqualified to contest the presidential elections.

Still, under the first prayer, he urged the court to declare that Mr Tinubu did not score most of the lawful votes in the election.
He asked the court to declare that he satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the 25 February 2023 presidential election after deducting alleged illegal votes from Mr Tinubu’s scores.

In the second main prayer, he urged the court to invalidate Mr Tinubu’s victory due to his failure to win one-quarter of the lawful votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

However, in his third prayer, which he put forward as an alternative prayer, Mr Obi urged the court to cancel the election and order INEC to conduct a fresh one.

But he repeated his claim that he won the election in prayer 4, which he also put forward as an alternative prayer.

Claiming to have secured the majority of the lawful votes cast during the election, Mr Obi called the court to declare him the president-elect and order the INEC to issue him a certificate of return. He urged the court to void the certificate of return “wrongly” issued to Mr Tinubu.

In his fifth prayer, another alternative prayer, he called on the court to nullify the election, which he said was conducted without compliance with the electoral law, and order a fresh election.

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