The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, did not have to score 25 votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) before being declared Nigeria’s president-elect.
The president-elect polled 8.8 million votes to beat Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who came second and Labour Party’s Peter Obi who came third in the 25 February election.
To be declared the winner of Nigeria’s presidential election, a candidate must also score 25 per cent of votes cast in two-third of the 36 states and the FCT.
The two-third of the 36 states is 24. Mr Tinubu won 25 per cent of the votes cast in 29 states but secured only about 18.99 per cent in the FCT.
Atiku in a joint petition with the PDP is challenging Mr Tinubu’s victory on, among other grounds, that the former Lagos State governor failed to secure the statutory 25 per cent of votes cast in two-thirds (24 states) and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The petitioner, who urged the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja to either declare him the winner of the election or nullify it and order a rerun, also secured only 15.5 per cent of the votes in Abuja.
The Labour Party’s Mr Obi resoundingly won Abuja by securing 58.85 per cent of the votes in the capital city. Mr Obi, who came third in the election, is similarly challenging Mr Tinubu’s victory in court, on among other grounds, that the president-elect failed to secure up to 25 per cent votes in Abuja.
However, in a preliminary objection to Atiku’s petition, the electoral umpire, argued that there was no basis for the call for “a run-off and/or nullification of the said election.”
‘Why 25 per cent votes in Abuja is not mandatory’
Justifying its declaration of Mr Tinubu as the president-elect, the electoral umpire said by scoring 25 per cent of the valid votes cast in 29 states, Mr Tinubu “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 Federal Capital Territory unnecessary.”
Citing section 134 (2) (b) of the constitution, INEC contended that its declaration and return of Mr Tinubu “was not wrongful…having scored one-quarter of valid votes cast in 29 states which is beyond the constitutional threshold for declaration.”
It further argued that Nigeria’s constitution confers the status of a state on the FCT (Abuja) “and ought to be recognised as one of the states of the federation.”
The FCT “beyond being the Capital of Nigeria has no special 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,” the electoral umpire explained.
Inferring the intentions of the framers of the Nigerian constitution, INEC said a presidential candidate is expected to have “a national geographical spread and broad acceptability from the Nigerian electorate and not meant to bestow a veto power on the FCT or its electorate over the election of a candidate at a presidential election who has otherwise scored one-quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of the 36 states except in the FCT.”
‘No votes were suppressed’
Refuting Atiku’s claims of electoral malpractices comprising alleged voter suppression, manipulation of votes and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines in favour of Mr Tinubu, INEC said: “No votes were suppressed.”
The electoral umpire contended that no ballots, ballot boxes, BVAS devices, accreditation and collation, or election material logistics were manipulated” as alleged by Atiku and the PDP.
It maintained that there “was no intimidation and harassment, massive thumb-printing of ballot papers, destruction of electoral materials,.. mutilations, cancellations and overwriting on result sheets, inflation, deflation of scores and wrong entries in result sheets as alleged by the petitioners” during the February presidential election.
According to INEC, Mr Tinubu scored 25 per cent votes in – 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 and Rivers State.
But Mr Obi claimed to have won Rivers and Benue states in his petition. An independent tally of votes kept by PREMIUM TIMES based on the results uploaded on the IReV portal of INEC confirmed Mr Obi won Rivers State.
He, Atiku, and three other presidential candidates with their respective parties are challenging the election in court.
‘Why Atiku cannot be declared president’
INEC argued that Atiku’s prayers to the court to be declared president are impossible.
It said the PDP presidential candidate “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 FCT and as such could not have been declared the winner of the presidential election…”
To further justify its crowning of Mr Tinubu as president-elect, the electoral umpire noted that “the margin of lead between” Mr Tinubu and Atiku was 1,810,206, adding that the total number of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) collected in areas where elections did not hold or were cancelled were 994,151.
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