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Presidential election: Controversy over PEPT ruling

***Catholic Bishops express concerns over future of BVAS, IReV

*** PDP, LP demand explanations on watermark on CTC
The controversy over the judgement delivered last Wednesday by the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal in Abuja has continued to linger, even as the recently released Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgement has opened wider discussion on the issue.
While the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CNCN) have expressed concerns over some of the pronouncement by the tribunal while delivering it’s judgement, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP)and Labour Party (LP) have demanded for explanations from the tribunal on how it allegedly issued a CTC with letter head of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, (TPLT), instead of it’s name of the 2023 Presidential Elections Petitions Court (PEPC).
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), expressed concerns over the future of elections in in Nigeria following the tribunal’s position on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and mode of announcing election results
Addressing the bishops and others as he declared open, the 2023 Second Plenary Assembly of the CBCN in Abuja on Sunday, President of the Conference, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, of Owerri Catholic Arch Diocese rued the conduct of the elections, which he said fell short of people’s legitimate expectations and moral and legal standards.
The Catholic clergy regretted what he described as the dismissive approach of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) towards the petitions filed by aggrieved contestants.
He stated: “After hearing their petitions, the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) delivered its ruling in a marathon judgement on 6 September 2023.
“The five Justices of the Election Petition Court unanimously dismissed the petitions. According to them, they lacked merit.
“Despite the billions of Naira of tax-payers money appropriated for the provision of the VAS technology as a game-changer in our general elections, the Judges in their ruling tried, among other things, to suggest that it was wrong to expect INEC to keep its promise or obey the electoral regulation of transmitting election results electronically in real time from the polling units.
“While respecting the views of the Judges, two of petitioners rejected their verdict as lacking in justice and so have decided to head to the Supreme Court to seek justice.
“As this case moves to the next level, the fate of the country continues to hang in the balance and the future of democracy in our land stands on the edge of a precipice.
“We pray and hope that the Supreme Court Judges will neither bend the law nor seek to satisfy the whims and caprices of any party. We also pray and hope for a day in our nation when all election results will be finally decided at the polling units and not at the Court,” he added.
Ugorji further lamented the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria, criticizing the government’s approach to the issue.
“In the face of this dismal situation, we cannot get tired of urging government to rise up to its primary responsibility of securing the lives and property of its citizens,” he stressed.
The conference which expressed deep concern over the state of tension and uncertainty in communities, added that residents endure a life of increasing poverty, chronic hunger, hardships, and immense suffering.
They noted the situation in the country has been further aggravated by the abrupt and poorly planned removal of fuel subsidy, the floating of the Naira, and the subsequent galloping inflation, just as it noted that these factors have significantly affected the prices of essential items such as food and transportation, plunging millions of Nigerians into excruciating economic hardship.
Archbishop Ugorji, explained further that the government’s efforts to alleviate the harsh effects of subsidy removal have not yielded significant results, leaving countless Nigerians to bear the brunt of the ruling class’s actions.
He emphasized, “People have continued to live in the state of tension and uncertainty in our communities as they are subjected to a life of deepening poverty, chronic hunger, untold hardship and wanton suffering.”
**PEPC Judgement: Tinubu’s legal team owe Nigerians explanations – Atiku
Presidential Candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar said that the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) must explain to Nigerians and the world why copies of the judgment bears the header of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team.
Atiku in a statement signed by Phrank Shaibu, Atiku’s Special Assistant (Communications) lamented that after causing needless delay in availing Atiku and his legal team Certified True Copies of its judgment, the Presidential Election Petition Court produced it with an inscription of Tinubu’s Legal Team embossed on its header.
He said “It is not our intention to stir up controversy on the matter, but it is very important that the PEPC should tell Nigerians why they chose to affix the header of the Respondents on the CTC copy of their judgment, whereas the copies that went to the petitioners did not have the same.
“It is very clear that there are many questions begging for answers, including why the PEPC came to the decision to avail the Respondents, especially the Tinubu Legal Team to have a first receipt of the CTC of the judgment before the Plaintiffs.
“The curiosity is more confounding based on the fact that the lead counsel to Atiku and the PDP had pleaded in the open court to have express receipt of the judgment, to which Justice Haruna Tsammani agreed to and promised to make the document available the following day, which was Thursday.
“Nigerians want to know why the PEPC confers special privileges to the Tinubu Legal Team by making them have a first custody of copies of the PEPC judgment, even though it was more urgent for the Petitioners who needed the document in order to cause an appeal to the Supreme Court within 14 days including weekends”.
Atiku observed that in the course of delivering its judgement, the PEPC had spoken of the petition it was ruling upon in a vexatious and denigrating language as if it was a crime to bring a case of electoral banditry before the court.
He said that unfolding developments after the court’s ruling elicit suspicions about whether or not the Tinubu Legal Team provided clerical services to the PEPC. He questioned how and when the ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ creep into a document that was supposed to be the official document of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria.
“We need to restate that the ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ on the top left-hand corner of all the 798 pages is neither a monochrome nor a metadata. It is actually a header, meaning that except for a valid explanation, the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team is the originator of the document. For the purposes of clarity, “a header is text that is placed at the top of a page, while a footer is placed at the bottom of a page. Typically, these areas are used for inserting information such as the name of the document, the chapter heading, page numbers, creation date, and the like.” On the other hand, watermark is “a faint design made in some paper during manufacture that is visible when held against the light and typically identifies the maker of the document” Atiku said.
According to the former Vice President, “PEPC must clarify why the court chose to put the header of the Tinubu Legal Team on a CTC copy of its judgment document, while the only emblem that should have been on the document is the stamp of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria.
“Again, the PEPC must explain why it came to the discretionary decision of having the Respondents have a custody of the judgement earlier in the day on Friday while only making same available to the Petitioners later in the day, and only after the lead counsel to Atiku and PDP had written a second letter (the first was on Thursday) to the court demanding for copies of the judgment.
“Moreover, we have it on good authority that when the PEPC was informed that the CTC copies of the judgment given to the Respondents was already circulating in the public domain with the header of TPLT on it, a further delay was necessitated by the need for it to undertake a laundry of the documents by removing the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team header before handing over same to the lawyers of Atiku.
“Whereas the legal team of the PDP and Atiku have statutory 14 days to prepare its appeal to the Supreme Court, the PEPC had erased 2 days out of that 14 days, no thanks to the PEPC whose Chairman, Justice Tsamani had promised to make available the CTC copy of the judgment to Atiku a day after its judgement was rendered, which ought to have been on Thursday”.
He said that Nigerians and the world are earnestly waiting for answers to these posers as the legal challenge shifts to the Supreme Court, else it will validate suspicions that there were external factors involved in the formulation of the judgment and bring the entire judiciary of Nigeria into disrepute.
“Make no mistake about it. This legal challenge to the electoral banditry of February 25, which has now shifted to the apex court, is not about Atiku. It is indeed our last ditch effort to salvage our country and deepen our democracy. Against the background of the decimation of nearly all of the institutions of state including the Independent National Electoral Commission which dragged us into this quagmire, our intent is to ensure that the judiciary, the last hope of the common man does not go to the dogs” Atiku said.

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LP demands explanation from PEPC, APC on inscription on Judgement CTC