Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar did not meet the constitutional requirements to be declared winner of the February 25 election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said.
The commission urged the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) to dismiss the petition by Atiku and his party.
It said: “The first petitioner (Atiku), failed to score, at least, one-quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and as such could not have been declared the winner.”
As against the claim by the petitioners, INEC added: “The election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 and was not marred by any corrupt practices.”
The commission said the President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu validly won the election.
INEC said the FCT is not accorded any special status in the constitution as being erroneously portrayed by some political parties and candidates who lost the election.
The umpire stated these in its reply to the petition by the PDP and Atiku.
“That the second respondent (Tinubu) was duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast in the election and his declaration and return as the winner of the presidential election conducted on the 25th day of February 2023 is lawful, valid and in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act, 2022.
“Having satisfied the requirements of Section 134 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the return of the second respondent as the winner of the presidential election conducted on 25th February 2023 is lawful, valid and constitutional.
“The second respondent was at the time of the election qualified to contest the election.
“The petitioners neither scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election nor scored not less than one-quarter of the lawful votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.
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“Therefore, the first petitioner (Atiku) is not entitled to be returned as the winner of the presidential election conducted on 25th February 2023.”
INEC prayed the court to dismiss the petition.
The commission said the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate met all the legal requirements to be so announced as the winner.
It argued that a candidate must not secure 25 per cent of votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to be declared the winner.
The response was filed on April 11 by its legal team led by the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN).
On why it returned Tinubu as the winner, INEC said the APC candidate (listed as the second respondent in the petition) “scored 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in 29 states of the federation.”
It added: “Having scored at least one-quarter of the valid votes cast in 29 states, which is over and above the 24 2/3 states threshold required by the Constitution, in addition to scoring the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election, the second respondent was properly declared the winner and returned as the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The second respondent, having scored 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in the 29 states, has satisfied the requirement of the Constitution to be declared winner of the presidential election, thus rendering the requirement of having 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in the FCT unnecessary.
“The declaration and return of the second respondent were not wrongful and was made in accordance with the provisions of Section 134 (2) (b) of the Constitution, the second respondent having scored one quarter (25 per cent) of the valid votes cast in 29 states which are beyond the constitutional threshold for such declaration.
“The first respondent (INEC) denies that scoring 25 per cent of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory is a condition precedent to the declaration and return of a candidate in the presidential election.”
INEC added that by the margin of the lead, it did not act hastily, as claimed by Atiku and the PDP in declaring Tinubu the winner.
It noted that Tinubu scored 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in 29 states, namely: Ekiti, Kwara, Osun, Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Yobe, Lagos, Gombe, Adamawa, Katsina, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Niger, Benue, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Kogi, Bauchi, Plateau, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto, Taraba, Borno and Rivers.
While faulting the petitioners’ claim on the status of the FCT, INEC argued that “the provisions of the Constitution apply to FCT as if it were one of the states of the Federation and the use of the word ‘and’ in Section 134 (2) of the Constitution indicates nothing more than that in construing two-thirds of the states of the federation in which a candidate is required to score one-quarter of the votes cast.”
It argued that by the provision of the Constitution, the FCT “has the status of a state and ought to be recognised as if were a state of the federation.”
It added that the FCT, beyond being the country’s capital “has no special constitutional status over and above the other 36 states of the Federation to require a candidate in the presidential election to obtain at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in the FCT before being declared winner of the presidential election”.
INEC added: “The FCT is regarded as the 37th state of the federation and as such, a candidate needs to score 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in at least two-thirds of 37 states (to be declared as winner in the presidential election.”