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Obi’s petition at election tribunal is bereft of statutory allegations ~ by Barrister Obol Okoi Obono-Obla

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I have read a copy of the Petition filed on 21 March 2023 by the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Abuja.

In this writing, I will only dwell on two issues raised in the Petition.

They are the alleged No-qualifications of the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Vice President’s running mate Senator Kashim Shettima.

The petitioner (Peter Obi) alleged that the President-Elect is linked to drugs or narcotics.

I will quickly submit that linkage to drugs is not one of the disqualification criteria spelled out in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

Before you can be barred from contesting you must have suffered a conviction that is related to dishonesty ten years before the election you want to contest.

In the case under reference, it is alleged that the case took place in 1993, which is 20 years ago.

The election Asiwaju Bola Tinubu contested took place on 25 February 2023 more than 20 years after the event complained about.

Section 137 (e) of the 1999 constitution is a perfect answer to ground one of the Petition.

It provides as follows:

He has been convicted and sentenced for an offense involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of contravention of the Code of Conduct.

Assuming the offense in which the President-Elect amounts to a criminal conviction, ten years have elapsed.

If the conviction took place in 1993, this is almost 20 years.

The Constitution contemplates the conviction to have taken place ten years from the date of the election in which the candidate participated.

A forfeiture proceeding that doesn’t end in the conviction of the defendant is not a conviction in the eye of the law.

I do not think that a forfeiture proceeding is a criminal proceeding contemplated by the Constitution.

A forfeiture proceeding is a non-conviction proceeding.

There are two types of forfeiture proceedings.

They are civil and criminal.

Civil forfeiture proceedings, for example, are directed against property (independent of any criminal proceeding) alleged to have been used in criminal activity.

In the American context, these procedures require only that the government shows probable cause that the property was implicated in criminal activity.

On the other hand, criminal forfeiture proceedings require that the defendant go through the full process of a criminal trial and suffer a conviction.

When the defendant suffers a conviction any property, he has found to derive from the proceeds of a crime is seized from him and forfeited to the government.

The second ground on which Peter Obi’s Petition is hinged is that the Vice President-Elect, Senator Kashim Shettima filed a double nomination (Vice Presidential and senatorial).

Assuming Shettima indulged in double nomination it cannot be a ground for an election petition. The electoral act did not say that any candidate that indulges in double nomination is liable to disqualification.

It only prescribes a term of imprisonment if the person is found guilty.

That means the person has to go through an investigation, prosecution, and conviction.

This cannot be done through an election petition.

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear and determine this part of the Petition.

Lastly, the Petitioner alleges that the Election held on 25 February 2023 was marred by corrupt practices and was not conducted in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.

An answer to this issue is provided in section 138 of the Electoral Act which provides that the Tribunal cannot nullify an election if it found that it was conducted in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

I think the Petition is blustery and vexatious.

I do not see Peter Obi winning this case based on the facts presented in his petition and the state of the Law.

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