The Court of Appeal said the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) has the right to dismiss the petition of dual citizenship and perjury against President Bola Tinubu.
Naija News reported that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had petitioned the tribunal that Tinubu was unqualified to contest the presidency because he has dual citizenship.
He claimed that the passport of the president surfaced after he had already said under oath that he had never obtained foreign citizenship while submitting his application to run for president.
But in a post via his official X handle on Sunday, the Court of Appeal said it had uploaded the full judgement of the PEPT on the 2023 presidential election.
According to the judgement, the appellate court said it dismissed the petition against Tinubu because Atiku introduced the matter at a time when the president’s lawyers could no longer respond.
The court held that it was deemed to be an “unfair tactic” that would not be tolerated.
It held: “It is now through their Reply that Petitioners, who themselves seemed to have had no clear idea of what they meant by 2nd Respondent’s non-qualification for the election or simply deliberately kept it back when filing their petition, want to now introduce through their Reply at a time when respondents have no further right of responding to them,” the court held in the September 6 decision. “Such unfair tactics cannot, and are not, allowed by our law.”
The five-member panel said that the matter of Guinean citizenship was a fact that should have been presented as a separate petition rather than as a response to Tinubu’s defence.
The judges berated the former vice president’s lawyers as being “clever by half” when they introduced the passport that Tinubu obtained from a foreign country.
“The petitioners were only being clever by half when they claimed in paragraph 2.1 (b) of their Reply that they were simply giving, as they put it, ‘further details’ of the non-qualification of 2nd respondent by averring to the conviction, fine, certificate forgery and dual citizenship of 2nd Respondent that they raised in their Replies,” the judges said.
“They had never given any details of 2nd Respondent’s non-qualification and so cannot talk about ‘further details’ let alone hide under such ‘further’ details to smuggle in the new facts they averred in paragraph 1.2 (i) (ii), (iii), (iv) (v) and 2. l (b) of their Reply.”
The panel of five justices led by Haruna Tsammani said that to adjudge Tinubu was ineligible to run for office based on a nebulous “reason of non-qualification” contained in Atiku and PDP’s initial petition, left all parties involved, including the court and electoral commission completely at sea.
“Therefore, an assertion that merely says that a person is not qualified to contest the election by reason of non-qualification will leave not just the person so assailed but every other person involved, including the court, at a loss as to what the pleader has in mind,” they said.
The judges, however, failed to disclose how Tinubu’s apparent perjury should be addressed, especially since the Nigerian Constitution specifically prohibits making false submissions to the electoral office.