The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has strongly criticized the recent judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) that dismissed all petitions filed by the Labour Party and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the outcome of the 2023 presidential election in which Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as the winner representing the All Progressives Congress (APC). HURIWA considered the ruling as a clear miscarriage of justice and a concerning sign of the tribunal’s competence and impartiality.
In a statement signed by the National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA, emphasized the importance of respecting the hierarchy of legal decisions, where higher courts’ judgments, especially those of the Supreme Court, should serve as binding precedent for lower courts. It expressed bewilderment at the PEPT, a lower court, daring to challenge or undermine a well-established Supreme Court ruling, particularly regarding the interpretation of Section 134(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution.
While noting that the constitutional provision imposes a challenging requirement on presidential candidates, demanding not only a majority of votes but also at least one-quarter (25%) of all votes cast in all states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), HURIWA cited the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution as emphasizing the need for precision and strict adherence to established legal principles.
“The Supreme Court in Orakul Resources Ltd & Anor V NCC & Ors. (2022) LPELR 56602 (SC) held that ‘in the construction of a statute, all the provisions dealing with the subject matter and the overall context, the intention or purport of the stature are to be considered together, holistically and not in isolation in order to identify the real intention of the legislature. Sections 130–134 of the Constitution must be given a compound interpretation to adequately sieve the spirit of the law.
“The interpretation of this constitutional provision, which sets the threshold for presidential candidates, necessitates precision and unwavering adherence to established legal doctrines. The decision of the appellate court to disregard the Supreme Court’s authoritative guidance on this matter not only introduces legal confusion but also casts a shadow on the integrity of our judicial system”.
HURIWA further criticized the PEPT for its heavy reliance on technicalities while failing to deliver substantial justice. The organization noted that the tribunal placed blame on the petitioners for not presenting sufficient evidence of electoral misconduct, despite the fact that INEC had blatantly refused to provide them with essential documents, contrary to the tribunal’s order.
Additionally, HURIWA expressed grave concerns about alleged leaks of the verdict to the President, the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian Army, leading to unjustified warnings of potential violent protests. These allegations raised significant questions about the fairness and impartiality of the tribunal’s proceedings, potentially violating the principles of justice.
HURIWA called on relevant authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into these allegations, including an examination of the tribunal’s conduct. The organization emphasized the need for justice to be served and the preservation of the sanctity of legal processes.
In conclusion, HURIWA urged all Nigerians to remain vigilant and actively engaged in matters of national significance, particularly those affecting the democratic process. The organization reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law, pledging continued advocacy for justice and accountability in Nigeria.