Members of the presidential elections tribunal have received a warning from President Bola Tinubu that removing him from office could result in the breakdown of peace and order in Nigeria.
Mr. Tinubu acknowledged that he did not receive 25% of the votes cast in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, but said that this was insufficient to reverse the Independent National Electoral Commission’s, or INEC’s, declaration of his victory.
“Any other interpretation different from this will lead to absurdity, chaos, anarchy and alteration of the very intention of the legislature,” Mr Tinubu’s lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun said in their final defence statement to the court.
The lawyers were specifically addressing a section of the Nigerian Constitution that said a presidential candidate must score 25 per cent of votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, or Abuja.
After Mr. Tinubu earned the most votes in a three-way presidential election in February but fell short of the 25% threshold in the Federal Capital Territory, public debate regarding the clause’s intent has been rife.
Mr Tinubu’s team said courts have always been careful about giving extreme interpretation of the Constitution that could spark chaos.
“Our courts have always adopted the purposeful approach to the interpretation of our Constitution, as exemplified in a host of decisions,” the team said.
They also said Mr Tinubu would still have won the election even if he didn’t score anything in Abuja and one other state, although this was not the argument of petitions, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of Labour Party.
“Even if there was no election in one State (including the FCT), or even if the election of a State/States (including the FCT) is/are voided, the entire election cannot be voided or canceled.
“In concluding our arguments on this issue, we urge the court to hold that any election where the electorate exercise their plebiscite, there is neither a ‘royal’ ballot nor ‘royal’ voter; and that residents of the FCT do not have any special voting right over residents of any other State of the federation, in a manner similar to the concepts of preferential shareholding in Company Law.
“We urge this court to resolve this issue against the petitioners and in favour of the respondent,” the lawyers said.