By Kenneth Atavti
The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party, have stormed the Supreme Court with 35 grounds of appeal seeking nullification of the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as winner of the presidential election.
Atiku and PDP said that the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) erred in law by not taking into cognisance the Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to conduct the election in accordance with its own guidelines and the Electoral Act 2022.
The doctrine of legitimate expectation was first developed in English law as a ground of judicial review in administrative law to protect a procedural or substantive interest when a public authority rescinds from a representation made to a person. In Nigeria, the doctrine of legitimate expectation demands that a public authority shall respect and apply its stated position or sustained practice in exercising its powers on members of the public.
Atiku and PDP requested the apex court to void and set aside the September 6, judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court, which upheld the declaration of Tinubu as President by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 1.
In the Notice of Appeal, Atiku prayed the Supreme Court to declare him the authentic winner of the February 25 presidential election based on lawful votes cast by Nigerians during the poll.
He said that in the alternative, the apex court should order a rerun election to be conducted for him and Tinubu being the 1st and 2nd runners up in the last presidential election.
While challenging the entire judgment of the tribunal, Atiku claimed that the lower court erred in law when it failed to determine his case with respect to the mandatory verification and confirmation required before the announcement of the results of the presidential election, pursuant to Section 64(4) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He averred that all the Collation Officers, Returning Officers and INEC Chairman are under a statutory obligation to confirm and verify that the results being collated is consistent with the results directly transmitted from the polling units before making final announcement on the general elections.
Faulting the entire decision further, the appellant in ground eight claimed that the lower court erred in law when in its interpretation of Section 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution held that Tinubu does not need to score 25% of lawful votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to Atiku, the issue submitted to the tribunal called for the interpretation of the material word “and” in the said Section 134(2), adding that the provisions of the Section are clear and unambiguous.
Atiku contended that the tribunal made grave error and miscarriage of justice in striking out the witness statement on oath and the entire evidence of his subpoenaed witnesses on the erroneous grounds that the said statements were not filed along with the petition.
According to him, the subpoenaed witnesses were essentially persons whose witness statement on oath could not practically be ready and available at the time of preparing and filing of his petition.
“PW 21 and PW 26 were witnesses whose witness statements on oath and experts reports were predicated upon the order of the same tribunal made pursuant to Section 146(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which authorized them on behalf of the appellants to proceed to inspect electoral documents in the custody of the 1st respondents (INEC) for the maintenance of the petition.