In a significant development in Nigerian politics, the legal battle challenging President Bola Tinubu’s election victory is set to continue, with the Supreme Court scheduled to hear former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s appeal. Atiku, the Peoples Democratic Party’s standard-bearer in the February presidential poll, has filed an election petition appeal that has captured the nation’s attention.
Supreme Court Hearing Date Confirmed
The Supreme Court Registrar, Zainab Garba, has officially announced that Atiku’s appeal will be heard before the Supreme Court in Abuja on Monday, October 23, 2023. This eagerly anticipated hearing follows the earlier dismissal of the petitions filed by Atiku and his follow opposition, Peter Obi, by the election tribunal.
Shortage of Supreme Court Justices Raises Concerns
One of the concerning elements surrounding the impending hearing is the current shortage of Supreme Court justices. The apex court presently has just 11 justices, a stark contrast to the required 21 stipulated by the 1999 Constitution. As a result, the workload on the court has come under scrutiny.
House of Representatives Takes Action
The House of Representatives has not overlooked this issue. In a recent resolution, the House called on the Federal Government to appoint nine new justices to the Supreme Court. The aim is to expedite justice delivery in the country, especially considering the demanding caseload faced by the Supreme Court.
Atiku’s Legal Challenge in Focus
Atiku’s legal challenge has gained substantial attention, as he initially approached the presidential election tribunal to nullify the February 25 election, in which the Independent National Electoral Commission declared President Tinubu the winner. The tribunal, however, dismissed Atiku’s and Obi’s petitions, citing a lack of merit, and upheld Tinubu’s electoral victory.
Dissatisfied with this verdict, Atiku and his legal team have appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Their appeal raises 35 grounds of review, including disputes over electronic transmission of election results, Tinubu’s qualification for the election, and the validity of Federal Capital Territory votes.
Fresh Evidence: Academic Records Dispute
Atiku’s legal team has also sought the Supreme Court’s permission to introduce what they consider “fresh and additional evidence.” This evidence pertains to President Tinubu’s academic records, obtained from Chicago State University. Atiku alleges forgery of the document and asserts that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election.
Legal Counsel’s Statements
Both legal teams have acknowledged receipt of the Supreme Court’s hearing notice for the appeal. Wole Olanipekun SAN, who represents President Tinubu, emphasized that all necessary documents have been filed on behalf of their client.
Support from the Legal Community
The Nigerian Bar Association and the Supreme Court itself have expressed support for the House of Representatives’ call to appoint new Supreme Court justices. The shortage of justices at the Supreme Court has raised concerns about the timely and efficient delivery of justice in the country.
Legal experts in Nigeria have underscored the critical need to address the shortage of Supreme Court justices. They emphasize that understaffing has a detrimental impact on justice delivery and hinders the rule of law. The legal community is looking forward to the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision and its implications for Nigeria’s legal and political landscape.