In the latest update on the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) proceedings, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has decided not to open its defence in response to the separate petitions filed by the Labour Party (LP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The ruling party has stated that there is no need to pursue the matter further, as it considers it to be a futile exercise.
APC’s lead counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), made the decision after thoroughly cross-examining the Senate Majority Leader, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, who served as a key witness for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. During the questioning, Bamidele acknowledged that Tinubu’s election could not be overturned based on his forfeiture of $460,000 in compliance with a US court order.
The witness clarified that Tinubu had never faced any criminal charges or convictions in an American court, emphasizing his clean record. Bamidele further asserted that civil forfeiture should not be equated with a criminal trial and conviction. He also confirmed his longstanding relationship with President Tinubu, spanning over 35 years, and affirmed Tinubu’s Nigerian citizenship by birth.
After careful consideration of the evidence and witness testimony, Fagbemi announced, “We have enough evidence and we are not calling any witness; we do not intend to whip dead horses. We announce the closure of the case of the 3rd respondent.” This effectively marked the conclusion of APC’s defence.
Earlier in the proceedings, the Senate majority leader clarified that President Tinubu did not need to obtain 25 percent of the votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to be declared the winner of the February 25 election. He highlighted that while Abuja holds the status of the federal capital, it does not possess any special status in terms of electoral requirements.
The witness agreed with the petitioner’s counsel that Tinubu received 19.4 percent of the total votes cast in the FCT. When confronted with the fact that Tinubu was the first president to emerge without scoring 25 percent of votes in the FCT and without winning his home state, the witness asserted that it was inconsequential.
Regarding the judgment of the US court on the forfeiture of $460,000, the witness clarified that it involved a civil proceeding, not a criminal charge against Tinubu. He emphasized that a conviction cannot be obtained without a charge, trial, indictment, and conviction.
As the proceedings continue, the court has allotted the respondents 10 days to file their final written addresses, while the petitioner has been given seven days to respond and an additional five days to reply on points of law. The presiding justice of the court, Justice Haruna Tsammani, will communicate the date for the adoption of the final written addresses to the involved parties.
In this ongoing legal battle, the decision by APC not to present a defence in the face of the LP and PDP petitions is a significant development. As the court moves closer to reaching a verdict, these proceedings will continue to shape the political landscape and determine the outcome of the election challenge.