Pre – hearing sessions over, legal fireworks began on Tuesday in the suit filed by Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) challenging the declaration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as winner of the February 25,2023 election. The Presidential Election Petition Court admitted documents in evidence accusing President Bola Tinubu of drug offences in
Pre – hearing sessions over, legal fireworks began on Tuesday in the suit filed by Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) challenging the declaration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as winner of the February 25,2023 election. The Presidential Election Petition Court admitted documents in evidence accusing President Bola Tinubu of drug offences in the United States.
When the suit came up on Tuesday, Mr Obi’s lawyer, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) tendered some court documents purporting to be the US court’s decision awarding $460,000 fine against Mr Tinubu for illicit drugs trafficking imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
The suit marked:93C 4483 was between the United States of America and Mr Tinubu. Mr Okutepa SAN also tendered documents to aid Mr Obi’s case of double nomination being pushed against the vice president, Kashim Shettima.
After the five-member panel of the court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani admitted the documents in evidence, Mr Okutepa called his client’s first witness. The witness, Mr. Lawrence Nwakaeti, said he deposed to a witness statement on 20 March at the court’s registry in Abuja.
Mr Nwakaeti, a lawyer, told the court that he voted during the February 25, 2023 presidential election at his polling unit at Umuezeala Village Square, Ihiala in Anambra State. In his depositions, Mr Nwakaeti said President Tinubu was fined in the US for allegedly trafficking in narcotics.
But under cross-examination by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN , President Tinubu’s lead counsel, Mr Nwakaeti said he would be surprised to know if Mr Tinubu was not fined in the documents he tendered to the court.
Responding to Mr Olanipekun’s enquiry if the witness had been to the US, Mr Nwakaeti answered in the affirmative. Specifically, he said he had visited Michigan in 2003.
APC’s lead counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN asked Mr Nwakaeti if he was aware that a “formal clearance report” was issued by a legal attaché of the US embassy, absolving Mr Tinubu of any wrongdoing concerning the alleged crime. Responding, Mr. Nwakaeti said he was not aware of any clearance report in favour of Mr Tinubu.
After the witness concluded his testimony, the court adjourned Mr. Obi’s petition until Wednesday, 1 June, for further hearing.
As part of the grounds of his petition, Mr Obi argued that Mr Tinubu, “at the time of the (presidential) election, was not qualified to contest the election.” He based this claim on the grounds that the President Tinubu “was fined $460,000 for an offence involving dishonesty, namely narcotics trafficking imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in case no:93C 4483″ between the United States of America and Bola Tinubu.
Speaking on the alleged non-qualification of Vice President Shettima, Mr Obi’s counsel, Mr Okutepa told journalists on Tuesday that the facts of his case were different from the Supreme Court’s decision dismissing PDP’s contention against the vice president.
The petitioner had argued in court filings that the law provided that a presidential candidate shall nominate another person as his associate who is to occupy the office of vice president. He recalled that President Tinubu had nominated Senator Shettima as his vice-presidential candidate on 14 July 2022 while the latter was still representing Borno Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
He added that the APC nominated Senator Shettima as its candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District as of 15 July 2022, while he was already chosen by President Tinubu as his running mate. Mr Obi said Vice President Shettima should not have allowed himself to be nominated in “more than one constituency”. He said this was a violation of the provision of the Electoral Act.
He vowed to prove in court that APC’s “purported sponsorship” of Senators Tinubu and Shettima while the latter was still representing Borno Central Senatorial district, rendered their candidacy “invalid.” He added that “…for this reason, the votes purportedly recorded for” President Tinubu “at the presidential election were/are wasted votes and ought to be disregarded”.
The petitioner also contended that President Tinubu “was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election.” He argued that President Tinubu did not win the majority of lawful votes cast in each of at least two-third of the states of the federation and the FCT, Abuja.
Mr Obi, who came third in the presidential race, urged the court to declare him president or order a fresh poll.