Opposition files petition against Nigerian election result

·2 min read
Nigeria's Labour Party's candidate Peter Obi sits in line with his wife Margaret Obi, left, as he waits to cast his vote during the presidential elections in Agulu, Nigeria, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Voters in Africa's most populous nation are heading to the polls Saturday to choose a new president, following the second and final term of incumbent Muhammadu Buhari. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian opposition party has filed a petition with the Court of Appeal against the ruling party for its candidate's victory in last month's presidential election, according to court documents seen by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Peter Obi, candidate of the Labor Party, who finished third in last month's presidential race is asking the court to declare him the winner and nullify Bola Tinubu’s victory. He argued that the ruling party's candidate wasn't qualified to participate, because he didn't meet the minimum educational requirement, according to Labor Party spokesman Yunusa Tanko.

“The candidate of the (ruling party) did not even meet the minimum threshold to participate in the election which has to do with the presentation of his primary school certificate,” Yunusa told The AP. "Our prayers are for the disqualification of Tinubu and the announcement of our candidate as the winner of the election of Feb. 25."

He also said the party would seek to prove in court that Obi won the highest number of votes in the election.

Last month, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission declared Tinubu the winner with 37% of the vote, beating the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who won 29%.

Obi finished third with 25% in what is usually a two-horse race. Abubakar’s party said it would file a separate petition also seeking to nullify Tinubu’s victory.

“If the process was heavily flawed as we now know, what will you talk about the outcome? We should be concerned more about the flawed process,” said Paul Ibe, a spokesman for Abubakar.

Nigeria’s electoral law says an election can be invalidated only if it’s proven that the electoral body largely didn’t follow the law and acted in ways that could have changed the result. None of Nigeria’s presidential election results has never been overturned by the Supreme Court. Still, lawyers say the latest court challenge is unique, citing new legal provisions that introduced the use of technology during the election. The new requirements weren't adhered to by the electoral body, Tanko said.

Obi’s petition marks the beginning of a court challenge to Tinubu’s victory with his party expected to gather evidence in the coming months. It's usually a long process and took seven months in 2019 when the courts rejected a similar challenge.

The petition comes on the heels of the country's gubernatorial election where the ruling party retained the majority of states, winning 15, including the commercial hub of Lagos. The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, won eight states.