Some legal practitioners in Rivers State said on Thursday that the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) was legal and not based on sentiments.
The lawyers spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) while reacting to the PEPC judgement, which upheld the victory of President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima in the 2023 presidential election.
NAN reports that the five-man panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani dismissed the petitions filed by Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Labour Party (LP) and their respective candidates against Tinubu and Shettima.
Theo Osanakpo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said that “what may be factually correct may be legally incorrect.’’
He explained that cases are won by pleadings, which could be statements of claims or statements of defence.
“What you put in is what you will adduce as evidence. Whoever says I have 20 must have the evidence to show that they have 20; If they say that they have won, they would have been able to tender documents to prove it.
“The major challenge today is the perceptions of the Nigerian public; they feel that judges are compromised, so it becomes difficult.
“In other words, the judiciary should put in its utmost effort to regain the confidence of the people, making sure that they give justice judiciously and judicially,” he said.
Don Loho, a legal practitioner, said that law is different from sentiment.
According to him: “Judges talk about the law, not fact; that’s why you apply the law to situations; it is different from fact.”
Loho, who said that the Labour Party’s legal team did not do well, pointed out that they talked about winning elections and having the majority of the votes without talking about the number of votes.
“How many votes did they have?” he asked rhetorically.
He further said that most of their positions were not filed.
“They were filing after the case, so those are areas where, definitely, the court cannot help them do it; the court will not have that power to do it. It’s most unfortunate,” he said.
On the tribunal’s ruling on the 25 per cent vote in Abuja, he noted that the Supreme Court had given judgement on the matter long ago and did not give Abuja special consideration.
On his general assessment of the judgement, he said: “They must apply the law the way it is; we all wanted it the other way, but the law is different. That’s why Madam Justice is blind. It’s most unfortunate.”
Mrs Onyinye Ileh, a Port Harcourt lawyer, said that she was satisfied with the judgement as the petitioners should have proved their cases before the court.
She maintained that the “judgement is based on the evidence in court.”
According to her: “No matter what you say orally, you must back it up with strong evidence. And then you check the section of the law that protects you on that issue.”
Ileh said that election matters deal with figures collected from polling units from wards, local government collation centres, and finally, at the state level, to get the final results.
“On this, it was said that the Labour Party did not do well; they did not call their agents as witnesses to give on-hand evidence but brought those who were not physically present at the units. You can’t allege that you were cheated when you don’t have figures to prove that you were cheated and could not prove it,” she said.