The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, on Friday, ordered that the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, should be served with copies of petitions seeking to nullify his election, through substituted means.
A three-man panel of the court led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, directed that the petitions should be served on Tinubu, through his political party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The ruling followed separate ex-parte applications that were brought before the court by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar and his counterpart in the Labour Party, Peter Obi.
The duo accused the President-elect Tinubu, of deliberately avoiding the service of their petitions on him.
They told the court that several attempts they made to effect service of the petitions on Tinubu, proved abortive.
According to the petitioners, the President-elect deliberately made himself elusive with a view to frustrating their effort to hand him copies of the petition as required by the law.
Consequently, relying on Section 6(6a) and 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act, as well as Paragraph 8 of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act 2022, the petitioners sought the intervention of the Court.
Both Atiku and Obi further supported their ex-parte motions dated March 23, with affidavits of urgency and non-service, even as they persuaded the court to hear the applications, outside the pre-hearing session of their substantive petitions.
While Atiku’s application was moved on Friday by his legal team led by Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, that of Obi and LP was moved by Mr. Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN.
“Having heard the applications by counsel to the petitioners including the affidavit in support, the applications are hereby granted”, the Justice Ikyegh-led panel ruled.
The panel equally granted leave to the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, to also serve its own petition on Tinubu, via substituted means.
It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had on March 1, declared Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the presidential poll, ahead of 17 other candidates that contested the election.
According to INEC, Tinubu, scored a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat Atiku who polled a total of 6,984,520 votes and Obi of the LP who came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes.
However, both Atiku and Obi rejected the outcome of the election which they insisted was rigged in Tinubu’s favour.
Aside from accusing INEC of acting in breach of its own electoral Regulations and Guidelines, the petitioners equally argued that Tinubu was not legally qualified to participate in the presidential contest.
More so, they argued that he did not garner the highest number of lawful votes cast at the election, adding that votes credited to the APC candidate amounted to wasted votes by reason of corrupt practices that marred the election.
Atiku further alleged that the electoral body deployed a third-party device he said was used to intercept and divert votes to the APC and its candidate.
While both Obi and Atiku separately claimed that they won the election, they asked the court to either declare them winners or in the alternative, order a fresh election.
Both petitioners urged the court to compel INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return it earlier issued to Tinubu of the APC.
The court had earlier ordered INEC to grant Tinubu, who is currently out of the country, access to all the electoral materials it used for the presidential poll, to enable him to prepare to defend his election victory.