The Supreme Court is set to deliver judgment in the joint petition brought before it by former Vice President Abubakar Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the declaration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.

The seven-member panel of Justices of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Inyang Okoro, reserved the date for judgement in the appeal after all parties adopted all their written addresses.

When the appeal was called, Chief Chris Uche, representing the appellants, informed the court of an interlocutory application seeking the leave of the court to present fresh evidence in the appeal.

The fresh evidence Atiku sought to tender is the academic records of Tinubu, which were handed over to him by Chicago State University (CSU) on October 2, 2023.

Uche said the issue involving the certificate is a weighty one, grave and constitutional, which the Supreme Court should admit as fresh evidence.

According to him, the court has a duty to take a look at the certificate and reach a decision by avoiding the issue of technicality.

Justice Inyang Okoro asked him if the Supreme Court should rely on the Electoral Act or the Constitution.

Uche replies that the issue is a constitutional one that the court should look into.

Justice Emmanuel Agim asked what the nature of Atiku’s fresh documents that he seeks to tender before the court is.

He also asked if the testimony by the CSU Registrar was conducted in a court.

Justice Okoro asked Uche why he wants the Supreme Court to brush aside constitutional provisions and entertain the fresh evidence.

Uche explained that section 233 of the constitution gives the court the power to entertain whether a person was properly elected.

In his argument, counsel to President Bola Tinubu, Wole Olanipekun, says the question of 180 days is clear.

He wondered where the court would compartmentalize Atiku’s fresh evidence. He describes it as an application in wonderland and ought to be dismissed as it lacks merit.

He added that the court is bound by law, and the law should be interpreted as it is, and not how it ought to be.

Uche responded to the issue raised about the CSU proceedings.

He said there is a slight distinction between proceedings in the US and the UK.

“In the US, that is how court proceedings are done.

“Mr Tinubu was represented by a US lawyer, but he did not object to the proceedings being held in Atiku’s lawyer’s law office.”

Uche said depositions are more effective than letters from the CSU authorities regarding the authenticity of Mr Tinubu’s academic records.

Justice Okoro said criminal matters have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. But in this case, there are two conflicting letters from the CSU – one authenticating the president’s certificate and another discrediting it. He asked Mr Uche which one should the court rely on?

Uche referred the court to a letter earlier issued to Michael Enahoro-Ebah, a lawyer, who testified for Atiku against Mr Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja.

INEC lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, asked the Supreme Court to dismiss Atiku’s application seeking to tender Tinubu’s academic records.

Olanipekun also said fresh evidence is not admissible at this point.

He argued that the CSU depositions are dormant until the deponent comes to court and testify, adding that INEC should have been a party at the deposition proceedings in the US.

Olanipekun further said the question of 180 days (the statutory period within which an election petition should be filed and determined) is clear. It is sacrosanct. It cannot be shifted. Therefore, Atiku cannot seek to tender fresh evidence at the Supreme Court.

Counsel for the APC, Akin Olujinmi also said the application lacks merit, it is misconceived and urged the court to dismiss it.

He added that the Atiku cannot smuggle a document into the Supreme Court without first tendering the same at the trial court.

Olujinmi said the burden is on Atiku to prove why the fresh evidence should be admitted by the Supreme Court.

Uche responded to Tinubu’s lawyers regarding the CSU proceedings and said the CSU depositions can be used in the Nigerian court.

The 32-page document was released to the former Vice President on the orders of Judge Nancy Maldonado of the District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division, Illinois, United States of America.

The US court had ordered the CSU to release the said documents to Atiku despite Tinubu’s objection because the court was convinced that it would help Atiku establish his allegation of forgery and lying on oath against Tinubu, who was declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), listed as 1st to 3rd respondents in the appeal, in their various counter-affidavits, urged the court to dismiss the application for lacking in merit.

Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), representing President Tinubu on his part, adopted the motion on notice filed on October 7, supported by a seven-paragraph affidavit seeking the striking out of some paragraphs in the appeal filed by Atiku and his party.

After the adoption of processes by the parties, the court reserved judgement in the appeal.

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