Nigerian Supreme Court dismisses petition to stop Bola Tinubu inauguration

Nigeria's President-elect Bola Tinubu

A file photo Nigeria's President-elect Bola TInubu.

Photo credit: Mohammed Momoh | Nation Media Group

The Nigerian Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a last minute bid to stop the May 29 inauguration of Nigeria’s President-elect Bola Tinubu, via a petition by the opposition's People's Democratic Party (PDP).

The PDP filed a petition asking for Mr Tinubu's disqualification because Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima had a double nomination during APC’s primaries. The petitioner alleged that Mr Shettima was nominated for a senatorial poll as well as for the position of Mr Tinubu's running mate.

The ruling was fixed for Friday, just three days to the inauguration, sparking controversy. The opposition expected it would be an opportunity to stop the inauguration pending the determination of other petitions filed by other political parties, including the Labour Party.

In the ruling, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court dismissed the PDP's suit, agreeing with the lower courts that the party lacks the locus standi to institute such a case.

Justice Adamu Jauro, who read the Judgement, said the PDP acted as a meddlesome Interloper and a busybody as this is an internal affair of the APC. The court also said the case lacked merit and that the attitude of the appellant (PDP) amounted to misleading the court.

A sum of two million naira (N2,000,000) was awarded against the PDP.

Shettima withdrew his senate nomination on July 6, 2022 and was subsequently replaced. At this point, he was no longer a candidate for the Senate, and as such, his nomination as vice president did not constitute a multiple nomination breach, the court said.

What the judges said

The PDP relied on a case of Uche Nwosu, who got nominated by two political parties for different positions.

The judges, however, held that the suit by the PDP, was bound to fail right from the trial court, to the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court.

They further held that the action of the PDP was “painful” as it used social media to “set a trap” for the apex court to “blackmail” it, a situation they described as unfortunate and uncalled for.

According to the judges, a political party has no right to challenge the action of another party, or the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

They added that for a person to have locus standi to challenge the nomination process of a political party, he or she must be a neutral aspirant to that position, and a member of the party.

The justices also said that no matter the pains of the PDP on how the APC conducted its primaries and nominated its candidate, it must remain an onlooker.

They also reminded the PDP of a similar issue in 1999, when Atiku Abubakar was nominated for the seat of governor, but later moved on to become the vice presidential candidate to Olusegun Obasanjo.

In that case, Atiku’s running mate – Boni Haruna - took over the governorship nomination. The INEC wanted to conduct a fresh election then but the party opposed it until it got to the Supreme Court.

The court asked the opposition party, rhetorically, what has changed since 1999.

The petitions

The case against Tinubu was by former presidential candidate Ambrose Owuru.

The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on 18 May slammed a fine of N40 million on Owuru for bringing a frivolous suit before it,

The appellate court ordered the politician to pay N10 million each to the 1st to 4th defendants – President Buhari, the Attorney General, INEC and Tinubu.

Justice Jamil Tukur, who read the lead judgment of the three-man panel of the court, held that Owuru embarked on gross abuse of the court process by filing a frivolous, vexatious and irritating suit to provoke the respondents.

The Court of Appeal held that Owuru’s grievances against the 2019 presidential election were uncalled for because they had been pursued up to the Supreme Court and were dismissed for want of merit.

Justice Tukur said the petitioner’s action to resuscitate a case that died in 2019 at the Supreme Court was aimed at making the lower courts go on a collision course with the supremacy of the apex court.

Further, the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja dismissed one of the five petitions filed by the Action Alliance challenging the Tinubu’s victory in the February 25 poll.

A five-member panel of the court led by Haruna Tsammani dismissed the case after the petitioner’s lawyer announced its withdrawal.

It was the first among the five petitions that the court called to a hearing.

At its inaugural sitting, the court assured all litigants that it would do justice to all parties in the case.

Lawyers, in response, pledged to cooperate with the court.

The panel members went on a short break after the ceremonial opening of the court and returned to begin hearing the Action Alliance’s case.

Confusion about the legal representative of the party ensued when the party’s case was called.

The alliance urged the court to nullify the polls owing to INEC’s alleged refusal to upload the name of its actual presidential candidate – Solomon-David Okanigbuan – to its portal for the February poll.

Action Alliance’s national chair, Adekunle Omo-Aje, said in January that Hamza Al-Mustapha, recognised by INEC, was not the authentic presidential candidate.

The election petition tribunal will continue hearing the other consolidated petitions of Peter Obi (Labour Party) and PDP’s Abubakar on May 30, after Tinubu’s swearing-in.

Great anticipation

Meanwhile, celebrations continue to take place in Abuja as the APC’s supporters prepare for the inauguration.

On May 25, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari handed over transition documents and bestowed the highest national award on Tinubu as part of the inauguration activities.

Tinubu and Shettima were conferred with the national honours of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) and Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON), respectively.

This is the first time in the history of transitions in Nigeria that the process has been driven under an Executive Order 14 signed by President Buhari.

The order sets the process of presidential transition on a path of legislation, which will institutionalise it.

An inauguration lecture with the theme `”Deepening Democracy for Integration and Development”’ will be delivered by Kenya’s former President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 27.

An Inter-denominational Church Service will take place the next day at the National Christian Centre, whereas an inauguration dinner/ gala night will take place later on at the State House Conference Centre.

"I have no doubt that Nigeria will continue to thrive and achieve new heights under your leadership. You are the best candidate for the elections and Nigerians have chosen wisely," President Buhari told his successor after giving him the national honour.

“The Nigerian people have recongised your leadership qualities, political acumen and passion to serve our great nation and have entrusted you with the burden of governing our beloved country. I have no doubt that Nigeria will continue to thrive and achieve new heights under your leadership. You are the best candidate for the elections and Nigerians have chosen wisely.”

Commending Tinubu for what he described as his “transformative leadership” as Lagos governor between 1999 and 2007, Buhari said this speaks volumes of the President-elect’s “dedication to the welfare of the Nigerian people”.

According to him, Tinubu is committed to the unity of the country and has in the past shown such qualities.

He, however, reminded Tinubu and Shettima that the nation faces a lot of challenges so they must be compassionate, lead with wisdom and exhibit transparency when they take over next Monday.

Responding, Tinubu vowed not to disappoint Nigerians and explained that he understood the meaning of the honour of being a President and the task ahead.

“I am a simple man who is the beneficiary of the support and goodwill of the people of Nigeria. The people have put their trust in us. You have done your part, Mr President,” he said.