LP seeks clarity from PEPC over judgment copies issued to APC
• Obi admonishes ‘Obidient’ movement, supporters against losing hope
• Don’t bend the law, Catholic Bishops tell Supreme Court
• Nigerians want change to happen quickly – Abdulsalami to FG
The controversy over why the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) bore the header of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team continued yesterday beaming searchlight on the judiciary amid calls for all aggrieved parties to accept the judgment of the tribunal.
First to seek inquest into the development was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, on Saturday. Yesterday, the Labour Party (LP) joined the fray when it tasked the PEPC and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to tell Nigerians what really transpired over the controversy and the embarrassing appearance of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team (TPLT) on the CTC of the judgment.
Offering an explanation, Babatunde Ogala, coordinator of the TPLP – the umbrella body of the battery of lawyers that defended President Bola Tinubu’s election victory at the PEPC –dismissed the widespread concerns about the controversial copy of the judgment as unfounded insinuations, calling it an “innocuous watermark.” Atiku’s team had insisted that the inscription was not a watermark but a header signifying the bearer’s authorship of the document.
LP, however, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Obiorah Ifoh, on Sunday, said: “Consequent upon the revelation that CTC of the recent judgment by the PEPC had an imprint, ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ (TPLT) as its header, Nigerians are curious about such happenstance that has inevitably generated storm and controversy.
“The Labour Party was very disturbed by the delay in releasing the judgment expeditiously, only to be confronted with this befuddlement. The public is equally at pains trying to comprehend what is happening.
“The onus of explaining and dousing the unfolding controversy rests on the PEPC and the TPLT, the imprint owners. Clearly, the header is not a watermark. We note that only some of the petitioners received the same version.
“In a highly contentious case with dire national interest and implications, confirming that the PEPC did not confer any advantage, rights, or privileges to any party is imperative.
“This development must be cleared up quickly to avoid conjectures and the belief that something untoward happened. This cannot be the case of another glitch.”
The party noted that “the unsigned and undated statement issued purportedly by a senior counsel on behalf of the Tinubu Legal Team is misconceived and empty. The senior counsel claimed that the header is a watermark! It is not and can never be.
“Typically, a watermark is a faint imprint or design made on some papers during production and which can be seen when held up to the light. It helps in checking the genuineness of the paper.
“We of the Labour Party place it on record that the counsel who collected the judgment on behalf of our party and our candidate did so long after a representative of Tinubu Legal Team.
“We call on the PEPC and APC to come clean on the CTC imprint and disclose whose imprimatur is inscribed on the entire judgment. Nigerians deserve the right to know and are demanding urgent answers.”
MEANWHILE, after the unfavourable PEPC judgement, LP’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has admonished members of the Obidient family and the generality of his supporters not to be depressed by the judgment because the dream remains alive and is only deferred.
Obi, in a message to the Obidient family and his numerous supporters at home and in the diaspora, who must have lost hope and become disheartened, said that despair is not an option.
“Understandably, there has been a note of general disappointment within our fold and indeed the general population of Nigerians who hoped that the outcome of the February 25th Presidential election would usher in a new and different Nigeria of our dreams. That dream has only been deferred for now but remains alive for all times.”
He noted that “since the tribunal verdict, there has been a note of general despair among Obidients and the generality of our supporters but let me assure us all that on this journey, despair or surrender are not our options.
“Today, I want to personally reach out and encourage you all to keep hope alive. Considering the challenges that lie ahead of us as a movement, despair is not an option. Nothing good in life comes easy. Throughout history, positive change comes only with sacrifice, perseverance, resilience and fluctuating fortunes.”
The former Anambra State governor reminded his supporters of his earlier warning at the start of the mission that it was not going to be a sprint but a marathon.
“Right from the onset of our journey, I told you that the journey upon which we were about to embark was not a short sprint but a long and tough marathon. It was always going to be difficult, painful, and excruciating.
“We set out knowing fully well that the forces we are up against are entrenched and formidable but not insurmountable. They would resist the wind of change and try to push us into surrender or despair. We must not succumb to their design.
“I am inspired that we have endured the odds placed in our way at every point. In such a short space of time, we have persevered to get to the point where we cannot be ignored any longer. Therefore, I urge you to abide and never think of giving up.”
Also weighing in as Atiku and Obi prepare to challenge the outcome of the PEPC ruling in the Supreme Court, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has asked the apex court not to seek to satisfy the whims and caprices of any political party nor bend the law.
The Bishops also took a swipe at the PEPC for ruling that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not mandated to transmit election results electronically after billions of Naira were spent on Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and Result Viewing Portal (ReV).
Speaking at the opening of the 2023 Second Plenary Assembly of the CBCN, the President of CBCN, Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, prayed for a day to come when all election results will be finally decided at the polling units and not at the court.
He said despite the reassurances by INEC to deliver credible general elections in 2023, the elections fell short of the people’s legitimate expectations as well as moral and legal standards.
The CBCN President noted that the confidence of citizens in the 2023 electoral process was eroded by the many pitfalls and irregularities evident before, during and after the elections. Archbishop Ugorji however, said Nigerians were disappointed that INEC failed to upload the presidential results in real time as promised.
“By the time the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, declared the presidential results, the results from thousands of polling units had not been uploaded on the IRev and a high percentage of the uploaded results, required for the verification and authentication of the manual results, were defaced or blurred.
“In some instances, irrelevant objects were uploaded on the IRev. Contestants in the presidential election, who protested against the electoral process and the results hurriedly declared by the INEC Chairman, were advised to go to court, and they did.”
HOWEVER, chairman of the National Peace Committee that midwifed the Peace Accord signed by all the presidential candidates before the February 25th election, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), has told the current administration of President Tinubu that Nigerians need change to happen quickly. He made this known yesterday when the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, paid courtesy visits to him and another former head of state, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd), in Minna, Niger State.
The minister noted that the fatherly role they provided for this country over the years will continue to be appreciated. He also informed them of the resolve of President Tinubu to return Nigeria to its path of glory. Abdulsalami congratulated President Tinubu’s administration for clocking 100 days in office and the Minister on his appointment.
“The information portfolio is a tough job, having to market the image of government at a difficult time,” the former Head of State said.
“The government faced a very difficult situation and inherited many challenges with the economy, fuel subsidies, and security.
“Nigerians, as a people, want changes to happen quickly. So, my message to them is they should join hands with the government to overcome these challenges.”
The Minister, responding to questions from the media, added, “President Tinubu is always talking about using our diversity for prosperity, and that is the message the elder statesmen also echoed here.
“Nigeria is a very diverse country, and we should use that diversity positively for the progress and development of our dear nation.”
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.