Nigeria’s top court begins hearing opposition vote challenge

The seven-member court panel deferred any immediate judgment  and judges were expected to deliver the final ruling on the opposition bid to overturn Tinubu’s election in the next few weeks.

Since the country’s return from military rule in 1999, Nigerian elections have often been marred by fraud allegations and usually end up in legal challenges, but the Supreme Court has never overturned a presidential election.

A former Lagos governor, Tinubu won 37 percent of the vote in February, beating Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party’s Peter Obi, in one of the most tightly contested votes in Nigeria’s modern history.

An election appeals court last month rejected as without merit the two main opposition party petitions, including allegations of fraud, electoral law violations and claims Tinubu was ineligible.

Akin Olujimi, lead counsel for Tinubu’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, said he believed the Supreme Court would also throw out the opposition challenge.

“I am expecting the appeal should be dismissed,” he said at the court.

Opposition parties claimed various irregularities, from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failing to properly upload results to fraud and claims Tinubu did not meet constitutional requirements for the presidency.

“As lawyers, we have completed our part of the work. The ball is now in the court of the Court to do justice,” Atiku’s attorney Chris Uche said in a text message.

Along with its original claims, Atiku’s camp also sought to introduce new evidence it claims shows Tinubu submitted a forged certificate from the Chicago State University as a qualification to the election commission when he applied to run for president.

– Glitches –

APC stalwarts have dismissed those claims as bogus, but the political rivals have sparred on television and social media over the forgery claims.

After February’s election, INEC acknowledged “glitches” in the voting process, but dismissed claims it had not been free and fair. Critics and the opposition said delays in uploading results and technical problems created opportunities for vote manipulation.

Vowing an agenda of “Renewed Hope”, Tinubu took office in May and has quickly introduced reforms his government says will revive Africa’s largest economy and attract more foreign investment.

The government is also trying to tackle huge security challenges, from a long-running jihadist insurgency in the northeast to kidnap gangs and intercommunal clashes in other parts of the country.

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