PEPC: How Judges Arrived At Verdict 

* mixed reactions trail judgment * The war is not over - Atiku * I won't relent in quest for justice- Obi * Tinubu welcomes verdict * Nigeria shall be free- Dele Momodu *  Burden placed upon the petitioners in order to upturn the election was practically insurmountable - Ebun Adegboruwa 

Packaged by Ahmed Ajikobi



All five members of the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, unanimously affirmed Bola Tinubu as the validly elected President of Nigeria, a decisive judicial resolution of the credibility questions that have hovered around his election for over six months.

In its over-12-hour-long judgement, the panel of judges led by Haruna Tsammani dismissed all three petitions challenging Mr Tinubu’s election in his lead judgement.

The rest of the members of the panel – Stephen Adah, Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf (the only female on the bench), Moses Ugo, and Abbah Mohammed – took their turns to also adopt the reasoning and conclusion of the lead judgement.

The petitions decided by the court were filed within three weeks of the declaration of Mr Tinubu as the winner of the 25 February presidential election on 1 March.

The petitioners were Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who was declared as the first runner-up in the election; Peter Obi of the Labour Party, the second runner-up, and the All Peoples Movement (APM), whose presidential candidate only managed to poll a little over 2,000 votes out of the 24 million votes cast in the election.

The panel unanimously stressed the total lack of credible evidence adduced by the petitioners to support their cases and described some of the legal arguments of Atiku and Mr Obi as “fallacious and ridiculous”.

“From the foregoing, therefore, it is very clear and certain that the petitioners have failed to prove that the 2023 presidential election and the return of the 2nd respondent (Mr Tinubu) was invalidated by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022,” Mr Tsammani declared.

The declaration came at a point in the unusually drawn-out proceeding when members of the members of the audience in the packed courtroom had reduced by almost half.

The Vice-President, Kashim Shettima, whose manner of nomination was a major plank of arguments decided on by the court, was present throughout the proceeding. But President Tinubu was absent, likewise Atiku and Mr Obi, who was regular in court at the hearing stage.

Tinubu won’

Mr Tsammani said, “It is very clear that there was no credible evidence by the petitioners to prove the allegations of corrupt practices” and that the petitions failed to present alternative results upon which they claimed they had won the election.

The court held that INEC was, therefore, right to declare Mr Tinubu as the winner of the election “in the absence of any other rival or alternate results placed before this court by the petitioners that the second respondent (Mr Tinubu) who scored 8,794,722 votes as against 6,984,520 votes scored by the petitioners (Atiku and PDP).”

“Having considered and decided that the three petitions … are all devoid of merit, the petitions are hereby dismissed.

“Accordingly, I find the declaration and return of Bola Ahmed Tinubu by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mr Tsammani declared.

In what appeared to be a rebuke of overzealous supporters of the opposition candidates, Mr Adah, in his concurring opinion, held that justice “is neither based on technicality nor on justice according to the suggestive clout of pressure groups.”

“When a court of law is called upon to determine an election dispute, he is called upon to do justice. Our notion of doing justice is not that of doing justice according to the whims and caprices of the judges or the parties; it must be justice according to law,” Mr Adah, the second most senior judge on the panel, added.

Key allegations

The two leading opposition candidates – Atiku and Mr Obi – individually had asked the court to either declare them the winner of the election or order a fresh poll. Should the court choose to call a fresh election, they prayed that Mr Tinubu and his party, the APC, should be barred from participating in it.

They alleged in their separate petitions that the election was marred by widespread irregularities and corrupt practices, including manipulation of results, suppression of votes, overvoting, harassment of voters, wrong computation of votes, and inflation of Mr Tinubu’s votes in virtually all the 36 states of the federation and the federal capital, Abuja.

They also alleged corrupt practices perpetrated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in connivance with Mr Tinubu and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

They alleged that INEC deliberately refused to upload the scanned copies of polling unit results in real-time as provided in the election guidelines to manipulate the figures favouring Mr Tinubu.

They also made a huge issue out of INEC’s failure to upload scanned copies of polling unit results to the IReV, an online platform designed for the public to view the polling unit results in real-time. This, they said, smacked of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, a serious breach that ordinarily invalidates an election if proved.

They stressed that Mr Tinubu failed to meet the full constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the election by virtue of his failure to secure a minimum of 25 per cent of the votes in the federal capital, Abuja.

Mr Atiku also raised the issue of Mr Tinubu’s alleged double citizenship of Nigeria and Guinea, a situation he claims disqualified the president from running for the election in February based on the constitution of Nigeria.

The PDP candidate, who lost the 2019 presidential election and a legal challenge to the outcome in court to then President Muhammadu Buhari, also alleged, like Mr Obi, that Mr Tinubu was not qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election on the basis that a US court in Northern Illinois ordered him to forfeit $460,000 in a drugs-related case in 1993.

On its part, the APM argued, as the only ground of its petition, that Mr Tinubu’s nomination was invalidated by virtue of the double nomination of his running mate, Kashim Shettima, as both the vice-presidential candidate and Borno Central senatorial candidate of the APC in the 2023 presidential election.


The Tsammani-led panel of justices dismissed all the arguments and the evidence led by the petitioners.

The petitions were not supported by “credible evidence”, Mr Tsammani ruled, with his colleagues on the bench also stressing the same finding in their concurrent opinions.

“Election petition is a serious issue,” Ms Bolaji-Yusuf remarked in a clear expression of her displeasure about what she considered to be evidence-starved cases of the petitioners. “A petitioner is not permitted to engage in fishing expedition or a roving enquiry as the petitioners herein did.”

“It is clear from the outset that the petitioners were engaging in wild goose chase and an inquisitorial adventure,” she added.

The court also spotlighted procedural blunders committed by the petitioners’ legal teams.

One such was the court’s finding that the petitioners failed to comply with strict legal and judicial authorities that mandate petitioners to file the statements on oath of all their witnesses along with their petitions or before the close of the three-week window for filing an election petition.

Lack of adherence to this led to the court rejecting 10 out of the 13 witnesses called by Mr Obi and 15 out of the 27 presented by Atiku.

The court, therefore, expunged all the testimonies of the affected witnesses and the exhibits they tendered.

“While they were complaining of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act against the first respondent (INEC), their own petitions were massively deficient and were in non-compliance with the same Electoral Act,” Mr Adah said.

The court also dismissed a substantial number of paragraphs of the petitions that were adjudged to be “vague”, “imprecise”, and “generic” with no particulars, such as the details of polling units alleged irregularities took place.

The court resolved all the key issues raised by the petitioners against them and upheld the arguments of the respondents – the INEC, Mr Tinubu, Mr Shettima, and the APC.

For instance, it dismissed the claim by the petitioners that Mr Tinubu needed to have won 25 per cent of the lawful votes cast in the federal capital even when he had met the requirement in more than two-thirds or 24 out of 36 states of the federation. The court said all votes are equal, as such, the votes of the federal capital voters could not have superior value.

The court also dismissed the issue of the judgement of a US District Court in Northern Illinois, which ordered the forfeiture of $460,000 belonging to Mr Tinubu, and said it could not be a basis for disqualifying him from running for the presidency.

Ms Bolaji-Yusuf held that it was “civil forfeiture” and not a “criminal forfeiture”.

She said civil forfeiture or non-conviction-based forfeiture “is not a conviction or verdict of guilt after an indictment, trial and conviction”. He said it was used “when the government’s interest is merely to recover proceeds of unlawful activity.”

She explained further that the criminal forfeiture envisaged under section 137(1)(d) of the constitution cited by the petitioners “is the seizure of the property connected with a crime after obtaining a conviction, as part of the sentence for the crime.”

The court also ruled the Supreme Court had decisively decided the alleged double nomination of Mr Shettima as APC’s vice-presidential candidate and Borno Central candidate as untrue.

The court held that Mr Shettima had withdrawn his nomination as a senatorial candidate before he was nominated Mr Tinubu’s running mate.

The court also held that the failure of INEC to upload polling unit results to IReV, an online portal accessible by the public to view scanned copies of the result sheets in real time, did not invalidate the election results.

The court said the collation process of results recognised by law is manual, adding that IReV “is not a collation system”.

Ms Bolaji-Yusuf said the petitioners claimed that it was impossible to do a valid collation of results because INEC failed to transmit the election results electronically.

Atiku rejects judgment, says ‘the war is not over’

In his reaction, The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, rejected Wednesday’s judgement of the presidential election petition tribunal.

The former vice-president, while speaking on Thursday at a press conference held at the party’s headquarters in Abuja, said he challenged Tinubu’s victory at the presidential election tribunal because he believes the court is the “sanctuary of justice,” adding that the verdict given by the court “failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations”.

He said, “Like I did say at the beginning of this legal battle when I instructed my lawyers to file my petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election, my ultimate goal in this pursuit is to ensure that democracy is further strengthened through the principles and processes of fair hearing.”

“Gentlemen of the press, I take great pains to tell you that the decision of the court of first instance on this matter utterly falls far short of that expectation.”

Abubakar said though he respects the court’s judgement, he does not accept it.

“I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.”

The former vice president said he is no stranger to legal battles and has asked his lawyers to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.

“I can say that I have a fair idea of how the court system works. All through my career as a politician, I have been a fighter, and I must say that I have found the judiciary as a worthy pillar to rest on in the pursuit of justice,” he said.

“It is my conviction that the electoral process in Nigeria should be devoid of untidy manipulations and that the outcome of every election should be a perfect reflection of the wishes of the electorate.”

“I believe that such is the only way through which our democracy can have a manifest expression of its true meaning. Whether I prevail in this quest or not, the record of my effort in ensuring an order of credible elections in Nigeria shall remain for future generations to evaluate.”

The PDP candidate asked his supporters to remain steadfast, saying he would win the war of restoring confidence in our electoral system.

“On this note, I urge all my supporters to remain steadfast. I urge them to take solace in an immortal lesson I learned from my leader and mentor, the late Shehu Yar’Adua, that losing a battle is less important than losing the war.

“We might have lost a battle yesterday, but the war is well ahead of us. And I believe that with our hopes in God, we shall win the war of restoring confidence in our electoral system.”

I won’t relent in quest for justice – Obi

Like Atiku, Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party also rejected the judgement of the election petitions tribunal.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday in Anambra, Obi said he would not relent in the quest for justice and would appeal the judgement of the tribunal.

“As petitioners in this case, we respect the views and rulings of the court, but we disagree with the court’s reasoning and conclusions in the judgment it delivered,” Obi said.

“It is my intention as a presidential candidate and the intention of the Labour Party to challenge this judgment by way of appeal immediately, as allowed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Our legal team has already received our firm instruction to file an appeal against the decision. I shall not relent in the quest for justice, not necessarily for myself but indeed for our teeming supporters all over the country and beyond whose mandate to us at the polls was regrettably truncated by INEC.”

The former Anambra governor implored Nigerians to remain focused, steadfast, and peaceful.

He urged his supporters to abide by the rule of law and understand that “this matter has not reached its logical conclusion”.

Obi further said electoral litigations will be non-existent in the country if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) discharges its statutory functions creditably, transparently and with discernible fairness.

He thanked his supporters, his legal team and all those who showed up during the court trials and urged them not to despair because a new Nigeria is possible.

Nigeria shall be free – Dele Momodu 

In his own reaction, the Director of Strategic Communications for the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Council, Dele Momodu, said those who were involved in the exercise “brazenly and deliberately” turned the Constitution upside down.

He, however, said those with a good conscience should not be angry with those who delivered the judgement, adding that “Nigeria shall be free.”

Momodu, a chieftain of the PDP made this known on his X page, on Wednesday night.

“I watched in utter amazement and wonderment how our Constitution was brazenly and deliberately turned upside down by those who lack a sense of history and care less about the verdict of history,” he wrote.

“What all men and women of good conscience should have for them is pity and not anger… NIGERIA SHALL BE FREE,” he said.

Tinubu Welcomes Verdict, Seeks Collective Effort to Build Nigeria

President Bola Tinubu responded to the news of his electoral victory affirmed by the Presidential Election Petition Court, from India, where he was participating in the G-20 summit, and saluted the diligence, undaunted thoroughness, and professionalism of the five-member bench, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani in interpreting the law.

He however, urged his co-contestants, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party as well as their supporters to give his government the requisite backing in collective interest.

Tinubu said he welcomed the judgment with an intense sense of solemn responsibility and preparedness to serve all Nigerians, irrespective of all diverse political persuasions, faiths, and tribal identities.

The president, in a release issued by his Media Adviser, Chief Ajuri Ngelale, assured Nigerians of his renewed and energised focus on delivering his vision of a unified, peaceful and prosperous nation, following the judgment by the presidential tribunal in Abuja.

He recognised the diligence, undaunted thoroughness, and professionalism of the five-member bench, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani in interpreting the law.

The president stressed that his commitment to the rule of law, and the unhindered discharge of duties by the Tribunal, as witnessed in the panel’s respect for the merits of the petitions brought forward.

He said it further reflected the continuing maturation of Nigeria’s legal system, “and the advancement of Africa’s largest democracy at a time when our democratic system of government is under test in other parts of the continent.”

According to him, the presidential candidates and political parties that have lawfully exercised their rights by participating in the 2023 general election and the judicial process, which followed, had affirmed Nigeria’s democratic credentials.

Tinubu urged his valiant challengers to inspire their supporters in the trust that the spirit of patriotism would now and forever be elevated above partisan considerations, “manifesting into support for our government to improve the livelihood of all Nigerians.”

He thanked Nigerians for the mandate given to him to serve the country while promising to meet and exceed their expectations, by God’s grace, and through diligent hard work with the team that has been put in place for that purpose.

PDP, LP Reject Presidential Court Judgment

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as well as the Labour Party, rejected the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, because it was against reason, fact and evidence.

In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP said, “As a party, we have had an initial review of the judgment as delivered by the PEPC and we unequivocally reject the said Judgement in its entirety.

“The judgement is against reason, against the facts and evidence presented in Court; against the relevant electoral laws, guidelines and regulations as well as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). Indeed, the judgment is generous in technicalities and very short in delivering substantial justice in the matter.

“The PDP, as a law-abiding political party, will with our lawyers, have a comprehensive review of the judgment and decide on the next line of action within the ambit of the law,” he said.

The party called on Nigerians to remain at alert, calm and united as it continues to lead the charge to defend democracy and ensure that the will of the people as expressed in the February 25, 2023 Presidential election was respected and restored.

On its part, the Labour Party said it watched with dismay and trepidation the dismissal of petitions by the five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani and therefore rejected it.

In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, the party said, “We reject the outcome of the judgment in its entirety, because justice was not served and it did not reflect the law and the desire of the people.

“Nigerians were witnesses to the electoral robbery that took place on February 25, 2023, which was globally condemned but the Tribunal in its wisdom refused to accept the obvious.”

According to the party, “What is at stake is democracy and we will not relent until the people’s will prevails. We salute the doggedness of our team of lawyers who fearlessly exposed the wrath in our system. We can only weep for democracy in Nigeria but we refuse to give up on Nigeria.

“Details of the party’s position will be presented after consultation with our lawyers after the Certified True Copy of the judgment has been obtained. We urge all lovers of democracy to remain focused and hopeful because a new Nigeria is possible.”

Buhari: Democracy, Our People Have Won

Former President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his happiness with the ruling.

The former President, in a statement by his former aide, Garba Shehu, said the PEPC has “written history” by spurning intimidation and all manner of prejudice to deliver justice according law to a majority of citizens, whose wish is that the choices they made were respected.

“If anybody has won today it is the democracy and the people,” adding, “with the verdict of the Supreme Court, the election period is over and it is time to put the heat and dust behind us.

“From here, the new APC administration led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu should get the support of everyone in order to deliver the promises it made to the people,” he said.

The former President also voiced his appreciation to all citizens for maintaining peace throughout this period and prayed for continued progress and development under the APC government.

He sent warm congratulations to the President, the Vice President and the All Progressives Congress on the victory in court, expressing his best wishes to them in fulfilling the peoples aspirations.

Accept Tribunal’s Verdict, Ganduje Tells PDP, LP

The National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Ganduje, called on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) to accept the verdict of the tribunal.

Ganduje in a statement personally signed commended the tribunal for validating the victory of President Bola Tinubu.

He described the judgment as thorough, having addressed all the issues raised by the petitioners, and therefore urged the PDP and LP to cooperate with the present administration in its effort to address the challenges facing the country.

“I had no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the President would come out victorious, considering the massive support Nigerians gave him and our party the APC before and during the Presidential Election.

Ganduje also described the verdict as a true reflection of the presidential election, assuring the people that the Tinubu-led administration would live up to its electoral promises to reposition the country, achieve the desired growth and progress.

Barau: Verdict Reaffirms Nigerians’ Choice of Tinubu

The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau, commended the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), affirming the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, saying the the judgment had reaffirmed the choice of Nigerians on Tinubu.

Barau, who gave the commendation in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ismail Mudashir, urged all the parties to accept the outcome of the tribunal.

He said Nigerians irrespective of party differences needed to team up with the present administration to address the challenges facing the country.

“The judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on the presidential poll, has reaffirmed the choice of the electorate who trooped out on February 25, 2023, to vote for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the president of our beloved country.

“Now, it is time for all to team up with the President to turn around the fortunes of the country positively for the benefit of all,” he said.

Abbas: Judgment Further Legitimises Tinubu’s Victory

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, said the dismissal of the petitions against President Bola Tinubu’s victory in the February 25, 2023 presidential election has only added more legitimacy and credibility to his government and administration.

In a statement by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Musa Krishi, the speaker congratulated Tinubu on his victory at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.

Abbas said while the petitioners had duly exercised their rights by approaching the tribunal to table their grievances, the court had also duly weighed the arguments and evidence presented before it before arriving at the judgment.

The judiciary, the speaker added, had lived up to its name as the true arbiter in any case, based on the way it adjudicated on the presidential election petitions before it.

Sanwo-Olu: Tinubu Worked Hard for His Victory

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, congratulated President Bola Tinubu on his victory at the Presidential Election Petition Court, which delivered its verdict in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the presiden, saying Tinubu worked hard for the victory.

Sanwo-Olu said the APC members across Nigeria and Tinubu, worked very hard for the victory enjoyed at the February 25th presidential election, noting that the tribunal’s decision, which decided in favour of the president was comforting and also an affirmation of the will of over eight million Nigerians, who filed out to cast their ballots for the APC and Tinubu as their choice.

Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, said Nigerians had spoken through the ballots and the court has also validated the citizens’ decision by today’s judicial pronouncements, which upheld the victory of Tinubu during the 2023 presidential poll.

The governor said millions of Nigerians were not in doubt as regards the mandate freely given to Tinubu to steer the ship of Nigeria for four years based on his track records and laudable achievements as a two-term governor of Lagos State.

“What we are witnessing today is the beauty of democracy and the rule of law. We had an election in February this year, where over eight million Nigerians voted to elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“We ordinarily thought that the losers should have displayed good spirit of sportsmanship by congratulating the winner (President Tinubu) but they chose to contest the election results, which is within their rights. Now that election and the results have been upheld by the Court. I hope they would do the needful.

Abiodun: It Affirms Trust Reposed in Tinubu

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, congratulated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President, Kashim Shettima on their victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.

Abiodun said the tribunal’s verdict was an affirmation of the trust reposed in the president by Nigerians as evidenced in the outcome of the presidential election.

He described the judgment as sound, detailed and comprehensive, noting that the judges displayed unmatched courage in the discharge of their duties.

“It is heartwarming that the tribunal judges did not succumb to intimidation by the opposition, who deployed various antics to sway the judgement in their favour.

“The judgement is a further testament to the fact that the judiciary is the last hope of our people,” the governor said.

However, human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN, in his view said the verdict of the PEPC was not totally unexpected, given the stark realities facing us as a nation and the state of the law.

Adegboruwa, in a statement titled: PEPC verdict on 2023 presidential election: Time for Sober Reflection, said the principles of presumption of regularity of elections and that of substantial conformity made it extremely difficult to prosecute elections successfully.

“In this particular case, the burden placed upon the petitioners in order to upturn the election was practically insurmountable. To make matters worse, INEC practically fought the petitioners to a standstill, as if it was an interested party in the whole process.

“I honestly don’t think anyone expected a different verdict from what was delivered in Abuja yesterday, particularly the lawyers. The tension was completely unnecessary.

“This is why we emphasise always that the focus of anyone hoping to birth a true change in our electoral history should be on the electoral umpire. Without first unbundling INEC to make it more independent, non-partisan and effective, anyone declared “winner” will most often coast to victory in the election tribunal.

“The verdict should be a reason for sober reflection by all, especially for the parties in court, their lawyers and all lovers of democracy. The petitions could have been decided purely on points of law and within few days of the election.”




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