The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has defended the victory of Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the February 25 Presidential election.
INEC urged the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja to dismiss all the petitions challenging the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election.
Recall that INEC had declared that Tinubu polled 8,794,726 votes to win the election.
The commission declared that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, came second with 6,984,520 votes, while it announced Labour Party’s (LP) Peter Obi as the second runner-up with 6,101,533 votes.
All the opposition parties challenging Tinubu’s victory joined INEC as a co-defendant.
INEC, in its defence to the various petitions, filed through its team of lawyers led by A. B. Mahmoud (SAN), described Atiku’s petition as “grossly incompetent, vague and academic, saying it was an abuse of the court process.”
The electoral body asserted that having scored at least one-quarter of the valid votes cast in 29 states, which is over and above the 24 states threshold required by the constitution in addition to scoring the highest number of the lawful votes cast at the election, Tinubu was properly declared winner and returned as the President-elect.
On the issue of Tinubu not winning the FCT, INEC argued that going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, “the FCT has the status of a state and ought to be recognised as one of the states of the federation.”
INEC emphasized that it declared Tinubu as winner of the election, considering that he “scored highest valid votes cast at the election and at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in not less than two-thirds of the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
“The 1st respondent pleads and shall at the trial of this suit rely on all the Electoral Forms including but not limited to Forms ECSA, BCSB, ECSC, ECSD and ECBE used in the course of the Presidential Election held on the 25th day of February 2023,” INEC said.
It explained, “The FCT, beyond being the capital of Nigeria, has no special status over and above the other 36 states of the federation to require a candidate in the presidential election to obtain at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in the FCT before being declared winner of the presidential election.
“The 1st respondent shall also contend at the trial of this suit that the FCT is regarded as the 37th state of the federation and as such, a candidate needs to score 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in at least two-thirds of 37 states to be declared as winner in the presidential election.
“The 1st respondent avers that the 2nd respondent scored 25 per cent of the valid in 29 states of the federation as stated above.”
Addressing Atiku’s petition, INEC told the tribunal that the PDP candidate could not have been declared winner as he failed to score at least one-quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation.
INEC also insisted that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
The electoral body said that it kept its promise to Nigerians “in conducting free, fair, transparent and credible elections by deploying the BVAS device in conducting accreditation of voters electronically and uploading scanned copies of polling unit election results to the IRev portal.”
INEC also asserted that uploading election results to the lReV portal is not a condition precedent to the declaration of th e winner of an election under the Electoral Act.