Nigerian Supreme Court receives appeals on rejected challenges to disputed February presidential election

 September 21, 2023

The Supreme Court will likely soon consider the appeals of a ruling that dismissed challenges to a disputed presidential election -- in Nigeria, not the United States.

Two leading opposition candidates have separately asked Nigeria's highest court to overturn a ruling of a lower tribunal panel that rejected their challenges to the questionable election in February of President Bola Tinubu, Reuters reported.

Nigerian elections have often been challenged over allegations of fraud and other irregularities since the nation returned to democracy in 1999 following decades of military rule, but a presidential election has never been successfully overturned in that time.

Multiple challenges rejected by appeals panel

The Associated Press reported on Sept. 6 that a five-member Court of Appeals panel had dismissed election challenges from three opposition candidates and parties on the grounds that none were able to prove their claims of electoral fraud and other irregularities following a tight election in February in which no candidate garnered a majority of the vote in Africa's most populous country.

In fact, according to The North Africa Journal, President Tinubu was declared the victor with just 37% of the vote amid accusations of fraud, delays, and lack of transparency in uploading election results, and claims that Tinubu was not even eligible to be a candidate for president.

The second-place finisher, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party, claimed that Tinubu was actually a citizen of Guinea and was therefore disqualified from the presidency, while the third-place finisher, Peter Obi with the Labour Party, similarly argued that Tinubu was disqualified due to a prior drug conviction in the U.S.

Obi also alleged that the Nigerian Election Commission had failed to follow due process in announcing the disputed election results, and a third challenger, the Allied Peoples Movement, argued the election should be nullified since Tinubu's running mate, Vice President Kashim Shettima, had never been legally nominated for that position.

All of those claims were rejected, however, as the tribunal ruled, "It is clearly evident that the petitioners have failed to discharge the burden of proof placed on them by law. They have not been able to leave any cogent, credible, and acceptable evidence."

"A grave miscarriage of justice"

In filing the appeals to the Nigerian Supreme Court, Atiku asserted that the tribunal had rendered "a grave miscarriage of justice" and further decried the dismissal of his claims as "bereft of substantial justice," according to the Journal.

Per Reuters, Atiku further argued the tribunal had been in error "when it failed to nullify the presidential election ... on the ground of non-compliance" with national election laws.

The outlet noted that a spokesperson for Obi's campaign confirmed that he had also filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, which has 60 days to consider the matter, but did not elaborate on that effort with any sort of public statement.

Potential for political protests and violent riots

With all of that as a backdrop, the international Crisis24 website warned that protests were likely to occur nationwide in the coming weeks and months as the election challenges, at both the presidential and state levels, continued to play out in Nigeria's court system.

There have already been numerous gatherings in protest since the elections in February and March given that the opposition parties, as well as outside election observers, "raised concerns over widespread irregularities during the general election. Reports of fraud, including vote buying and rigging, as well as acts of political violence and intimidation, were reported during the election period."

That has led to "heightened security" in certain states and critical locations in the capital city of Abuja, such as the courts and election commission buildings, and the website advised citizens and visitors to avoid discussing politics in public and to steer clear of any roadblocks and protests that had the potential to devolve into violent clashes against police and security forces or between rival political groups.

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