Saturday, 9th December 2023

Police on red alert as Nigerians await tribunal’s ruling on presidential election

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Odita Sunday and John Akubo, Abuja
06 September 2023   |   3:54 am
Exactly 193 days after the February 25th presidential election, all eyes will today be trained on the judiciary as Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) delivers its ruling in the much-anticipated case against the election victory of President Bola Tinubu, who only yesterday clocked 100 days in office.

Armed the teeth Police officer on red alert ahead today’s PEPC Verdict. Pix: Punch

• PDP leaders resort to fasting, prayers
• Watch your utterance, police warn politicians
• LP decries Justice Odili’s pre-judgment remarks

Exactly 193 days after the February 25th presidential election, all eyes will today be trained on the judiciary as Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) delivers its ruling in the much-anticipated case against the election victory of President Bola Tinubu, who only yesterday clocked 100 days in office.

Though not the last bus-stop in the legal fireworks over who is the winner of the election as the Supreme Court is itching to hear aggrieved parties and their candidates, the countdown to today has been intense and tension-soaked with many mudslinging and kitchen sink unleashed and thrown at each other by the ruling party – All Progressives Congress (APC) – seeking to protect its mandate, and the leading opposition parties – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP).

Nigerians, who are already burdened by the economic policies of the new administration and would be observing the second of a two-day warning strike announced by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), will take their eyes off work and routine to watch the proceedings as the five-man panel adjudicate on the petitions brought by PDP’s Atiku Abubakar and LP’s Peter Obi against President Tinubu.

While some wonder whether the court might overturn the February 25 election and order a rerun, others are of the school of thought that such a verdict might further plunge the country into deeper crisis and unrest.

Considering that no presidential election had been overturned by a court of law in Nigeria since 1999, such an occurrence isn’t altogether unprecedented in Africa. Already, there are four African countries where their presidential elections were later overturned by the appellate or supreme court – Malawi (2019), Kenya (2017), Comoros (2016) and Madagascar (2001).

In its bid to fortify security architecture and forestall any breakdown of law and order across the country barring any outcome from the PEPC, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) said it has strengthened its deployment nationwide.

Vehicles were yesterday subjected to swift screening by soldiers at the entry points to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Gwagwalada and Nyanya axis.

Police spokesman, ACP Muyiwa Adejobi, who made the disclosure on the deployment, noted that the police are committed to ensuring the safety of lives and property before, during, and after the judgment.

“The NPF strongly cautions all individuals, including mischief makers and political gladiators, to be cautious in their actions and statements as the Force will not condone activities capable of inciting violence or causing a descent into anarchy. It is imperative for all citizens to embrace peace and maintain calm, regardless of their political affiliations, to ensure a peaceful and secure environment.”

For the PDP, party leaders have resorted to intense fasting and prayers. The fasting and prayers season, which was equally attended by secretariat staff commenced last Monday and ended yesterday with a special prayer session at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.

Participants at the prayer session were locked in a series of prayers asking for divine intervention. In his sermon at the session, former governor of Adamawa State and Chairman, PDP Christian Religious Body 2023, Boni Haruna, who took his Bible reading from First Samuel, Chapter 30 verses 1-8, admonished party members and indeed Nigerians, not to despair because there was still hope.

He noted that it was still possible for the party to recover all that was stolen from the PDP, just like David and his companions recovered all that were stolen from them by their enemies in scriptures.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the session, Haruna said: “We believe God will give us victory. Whatever the outcome of the judgment, we pray that it will strengthen Nigeria’s unity, we are not looking at negativity.”

In her remarks, PDP’s Director of Press, Chinwe Nnorom, who equally attended the session said, “Today’s judgment is not a coincidence, we have been praying before, it is not that God was not answering us, but we are before the Chief Judge of the universe, God is with us he never changes.”

The PEPC had on Monday scheduled today for judgments on the three pending cases challenging the outcome of the February 25 presidential election at the Court of Appeal headquarters in Abuja, which hosts the PEPC.

It is coming about a month after the court heard the closing arguments of parties to the petitions and about two weeks to the expiration of the statutory 180-day lifespan within which the cases filed in March must be heard and determined.

The five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani had reserved judgments on the petitions after hearing the closing arguments of the parties to the cases in August.
The petitions were filed separately by Atiku, Obi, and a political party, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), to challenge President Tinubu’s victory.

Meanwhile, LP yesterday drew the attention of the public and democratic watchers to some unfolding developments in the country ahead of today’s PEPC ruling. A statement by the party’ National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, said the party was particularly shocked at the unguarded statement from the retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Mary Odili, in Abuja at the weekend at a colloquium to mark the 25th anniversary of the elevation of a renowned jurist, J.K. Gadzama to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN).

The statement also drew the attention of the public to the boasting of some persons, serving ministers and notable legislators about today’s outcome.

“When those who should know the importance of the sanctity of the judiciary descend to the arena of abusing it with their preemptive utterances just to show loyalty and support to their interests, we as a party see this as unfortunate and dangerous to our democratic journey as a nation.

“We also note the needless lavish showering of praises on the legal counsels of both APC and Candidate Tinubu by the retired Justice when the gathering was not theirs.
“We find this extremely undignified of a renowned jurist who rose to the peak of her career in the country’s apex court and who as the Chairperson of the Body of Benchers and should be at the forefront of defending the virtuousness of the courts.

“Also curious to every discerning mind watching the unfolding events in Nigeria since the February 25th presidential election is the fact that the PEPC that refused live television coverage of the hearings of the petition is now anxious to have the conclusion beamed live.

“What is it that has happened between the hearing period and the delivery of the judgment that the live coverage, which they claimed was a policy issue, changed suddenly at the delivery point?

“We are aware of the efforts of the agents of the states to orchestrate problems and blame them on the political opposition. We wish to emphasize that it is the right of the people in a democracy to demonstrate and the obligation of state security agents to protect the demonstrators and those not demonstrating,” the statement noted.

It, however, implored Nigerians to remain calm and peaceful whole abiding by the rule of law and understand that this matter has not reached its logical and conclusion.