On Wednesday, the tribunal that oversaw Nigeria’s disputed presidential election in February upheld Bola Tinubu’s victory, continuing a trend witnessed in prior election years in Africa’s most populous nation.
Nigeria, which returned to democracy in 1999 after three decades of nearly unbroken military control and has a history of electoral fraud, has never had a successful judicial challenge to the conclusion of a presidential election.
The People’s Democratic Party’s runner-up, Atiku Abubakar, and the Labour Party’s third-place finisher, Peter Obi, petitioned the court to nullify the election on the grounds of irregularities.
The five-person panel of judges deliberated for almost 11 hours before unanimously rejecting each of Atiku and Obi’s separate petitions.
In his ruling, Judge Haruna Tsammani called Obi’s petition “unmeritorious” and stated he had “not led any credible evidence sufficient enough” to support his charges of wrongdoing.
Tsammani called Atiku’s claims of vote fraud “so lame” and rejected his claim that Tinubu lacked the necessary credentials to run for president.
“The petitions are hereby dismissed,” Tsammani said.
We could not quickly get their input since Obi and Atiku were absent in court. Obi’s Labour Party issued a statement rejecting the ruling and promising to reveal its future moves after consultation with attorneys.
Tinubu, who is now in India in preparation for the G20 meeting, issued a statement expressing his approval of the tribunal’s decision and calling on his opponents and their supporters to back his administration.
In June, observers from the European Union reported that there were issues with the elections, such as operational errors and a lack of transparency, which lowered public confidence in the system.
However, the elections did not spark a wave of public protest, and Tinubu has been recognized as Nigeria’s legitimate leader by the world community.
Atiku and Obi can appeal the tribunal’s decision to the country’s highest court. Within 60 days following the date of the tribunal’s verdict, the appellant must submit their final brief.
Although the tribunal’s decision was favorable to Tinubu, following an election with record-low participation of 29%, it was unlikely to inspire any special joy or momentum for the president.
Tinubu received the fewest votes of any president since the restoration to democracy with 8.79 million, in a country of over 200 million people, of whom 87 million were registered to vote.