The Nigerian Supreme Court, on Thursday, affirmed Bola Tinubu’s election as the president of Nigeria after dismissing a piece of crucial evidence that showed the Nigerian leader presented a falsified certificate to run for office.
The court’s seven-member panel said Mr Tinubu was duly elected in February 2023 and should be allowed to remain in office for the next four years.
The justices said the material filed by Mr Tinubu’s main challenger Atiku Abubakar, which included the transcript of a deposition in which Chicago State University disowned the certificate Mr Tinubu submitted to the electoral office on June 17, 2022, to certify his eligibility as a presidential candidate, came too late to be accepted into evidence. The court held that supplemental evidence could not be filed outside of 180 days post-election, even though the court had previously accepted evidence in similar circumstances in the past.
“The appellants failed to convince this court on why it waited until after the Court below delivered judgement in the petition and lost the 180 days donated to it by the Constitution before bringing the said deposition to be admitted in this court,” Justice Inyang Okoro stated Thursday morning.
While the decision would allow Mr Tinubu to remain in office as president, he’s still likely to face a fresh battle over the forged certificate if he decides to seek reelection in 2027 because today’s judgement did not go into the veracity of the document, but only that it was too late to tender it now.
Mr Abubakar did not file the evidence at the Court of Appeal, which is the initial court of jurisdiction over presidential election petitions, because he was unable to obtain the evidence on time from the United States.
The court’s decision appeared to solidify the fears of Nigerians, who warned prior to today’s ruling that the court would be passing a negative opinion about Nigeria as a country where forgery, identity theft and other serious crimes are condoned even at the highest levels.
Another opposition leader, Peter Obi, suggested earlier in the week that a culture of corruption in the judiciary would hamper it from delivering a clear verdict based on the evidence before it.
The court also settled the ambiguity over whether or not the Nigerian Constitution required the scoring of at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for a candidate to be declared winner. The Supreme Court justices, siding with their colleagues at the Court of Appeal, said voters in the Nigerian capital are not unique, and their votes should carry the same weight as citizens in the rest of the country.
The court also ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission had the power to set guidelines for elections. The department faced criticism for failing to implement electronic transmission of election results in violation of its guidelines and public statements in the weeks and days leading to the February 25 exercise.
The apex court stated that it would not re-litigate the allegation of double nomination against Kashim Shettima, who ran for the Senate before getting tapped as Mr Tinubu’s running mate, since the same court had, in May, deemed him qualified in a similar petition raised by the PDP.
Alongside Mr Okoro, the six remaining Supreme Court associate justices who determined Mr Tinubu’s victory included Uwani Abba-Aji, Lawal Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijjani Abubakar and Emmanuel Agim.