The camp of the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 elections, Atiku Abubakar, has challenged the Presidential Elections Petition Court (PEPC) to clarify the appearance of the watermark of President Bola Tinubu’s legal team on the Certified True Copy of its judgement affirming Tinubu as President.
Atiku, a former Vice President, who came second in the February 25 presidential election in the country, as well as Labour Party’s Peter Obi who came third, had gone to the PEPC to challenge Tinubu’s victory at the poll, but the PEPC in a ruling on Wednesday affirmed Tinubu as the rightful winner of the presidential election.
Atiku’s camp, in a statement issued by the Special Assistant on Public Communications to the PDP presidential candidate, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, on Saturday, hours after the release of the Certified True Copy, asked the tribunal to provide clarification on the issue in the interest of Nigerians.
The statement said after causing a needless delay in availing the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his legal team Certified True Copies of its judgement, the PEPC “must explain to Nigerians and the world ambiguities around why copies of the judgment bears the header of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team”.
“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.
“Was that because the Tinubu legal team is deemed to be accorded special privileges? The court must explain!” it said.
Atiku’s camp said there were 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 judgement 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 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 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,” Shaibu said in the statement.
He said the PEPC, in the course of delivering its judgment, 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”.
“However, unfolding developments after the court’s ruling elicit suspicions about whether or not the Tinubu Legal Team provided clerical services to the PEPC. Otherwise, how and when did the ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ creep into a document that was supposed to be the official document of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria?”
Shaibu said ‘Tinubu Presidential legal team’ on the top left-hand corner of all the 798 pages of the CTC was 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.
“The PEPC must, on its honour if indeed it still has any, 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.”
The Atiku camp further asked the PEPC to 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 the 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 judgement.
“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,” Shaibu said.
“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 judgment was rendered, which ought to have been on Thursday.
“Nigerians and the world are earnestly waiting for answers to these posers as the legal challenge shifts to the Supreme Court. Otherwise, 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,” he said.
He said the legal challenge to “the electoral banditry of February 25, which has now shifted to the apex court”, was not about Atiku but rather “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,” he said.