Nigeria’s presidential election tribunal on Wednesday rejected an opposition challenge to Bola Tinubu’s win in February’s disputed vote, following a pattern seen in previous election years in Africa’s most populous country.
“Having decided that the three petitions… are all devoid of merit and therefore declared that the election of Bola Tinubu is valid. The parties in the petition will bear their own cost,” Haruna Tsammani said in his final judgment on the three petitions.
No legal challenge to the outcome of a presidential election has succeeded in Nigeria, which returned to democracy in 1999 after three decades of almost uninterrupted military rule and has a history of electoral fraud.
The petitions filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar, the Labour Party, Peter Obi and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) were dismissed by the panel of the Appeal Court.
Judge Haruna Tsammani, reading out a lengthy ruling on behalf of the tribunal’s panel of five justices, rejected Obi’s petition point-by-point.
Obi’s petition was “unmeritorious” and had “not led to any credible evidence sufficient enough” to back his claims of irregularities, Tsammani said.
European observers had said in June that the elections were marred by problems, including operational failures and a lack of transparency that reduced public trust in the process.
However, the elections stirred little sign of a groundswell of popular opposition, and Tinubu has been accepted by the international community as Nigeria’s legitimate leader. As the tribunal was giving its ruling, Tinubu was in India, preparing to take part in the G20 summit there.
Atiku and Obi can appeal to the country’s Supreme Court to strike down the tribunal’s ruling. Any appeal must be concluded within 60 days of the date of the tribunal’s judgment.
While favorable to Tinubu, the tribunal’s ruling was unlikely to generate any particular euphoria or momentum for the president after an election marked by a record low turnout of 29 percent.
In a nation of more than 200 million people, of whom 87 million were registered to vote, Tinubu garnered just 8.79 million votes, the fewest of any president since the return to democracy, limiting the goodwill towards him.
Tinubu inherited anemic economic growth, high unemployment, the highest inflation rate in two decades, record debt, massive oil theft that has hit government revenue, and widespread insecurity from his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari.
He has launched a string of reforms, including the removal of a popular but costly petrol subsidy and currency controls, but has run into resistance from labor unions, who organized a two-day general strike this week and are planning another.