The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has described the claims made in a petition filed before the election petition tribunal by the Labour Party (LP) and its candidate, Peter Obi, against the declaration of Bola Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 presidential election as grossly incompetent and abusive.
The electoral body urged the tribunal to “dismiss or strike out the petition for being grossly incompetent, abusive, vague, nebulous, generic, general, non-specific, ambiguous, equivocal, hypothetical and academic”.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, this is contained in the commission’s response to the petition filed by its lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, in Abuja on Monday night, urging the tribunal to dismiss Peter Obi’s case for lack of merit.
INEC had declared Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election and ‘President-elect’ after polling 8,794,726 votes to defeat 17 others.
His biggest challenger, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 6,984,520 votes while Obi of the Labour Party finished third with 6,101,533 votes.
Atiku, Obi and their respective parties have filed suits to challenge Tinubu’s ‘victory’.
Obi and Labour Party, first and second petitioners respectively sued INEC; Tinubu; ‘Vice-President-elect’ Sen. Kashim Shettima, and the APC as the first to fourth respondents.
The petitioners asked the tribunal to annul Tinubu and Shettima’s victory in the election.
In a separate petition, Abubakar and the PDP are also challenging the election results.
However, in the CA/PEPC/03/2023 petition filed by Obi and Labour Party’s lead counsel, Livy Ozoukwu, it is claimed that Tinubu “was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election”.
The petitioners claimed that there was rigging in 11 states and vowed to prove it.
They claimed that INEC violated its own regulations when it announced the results, despite the fact that the totality of polling unit results had yet to be fully scanned, uploaded, and transmitted electronically, as required by the Electoral Act, among other things.
INEC has asked the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) to dismiss the petition, saying the reliefs sought by Obi and his party are not grantable.
According to the electoral body in its preliminary objection notice, the grounds of the petition are defective.
The electoral body argued that the petitioners’ grounds of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and corrupt practices did not disclose a reasonable cause of action due to the petition’s failure to plead specific particulars and figures as to how the alleged non-compliance complained of substantially affected the election results.
It argued that the petition’s ground that Tinubu was not elected by a majority of lawful votes cast was invalid for failing to plead the alleged unlawful votes to be deducted and/or lawful votes to be credited to the petitioners.
It faulted the petitioners’ prayer that Obi should be declared the winner based on their argument that the LP candidate garnered the majority of lawful votes cast in the election.
According to INEC, the argument is defective due to a failure to join necessary parties and a lack of requisite particulars and pleading to support the same.
The commission said Obi did not poll the “majority of the lawful votes cast at the election” and/or secure “one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all states in the federation and the FCT (Federal Capital Territory)”.
The commission said all political parties with candidates contesting in the election were required to submit lists of their agents and who were expected to observe the election process at their units, sign and collect result sheets on behalf of their political parties at the close of polls.
It argued that some of the political party agents whose names were on the list submitted to it were not at their polling units while some others who were present refused to participate in the process.
INEC said the Labour Party and its candidate, Obi did not have polling agents in all the polling units across the country.
According to INEC, they only submitted a list of 134,874 polling agents out of the 176,846 polling units required across Nigeria, meaning they were short of about 42,000 agents.