Presidential Election

NEWS: …..AND The F.C.T; In The Eyes Of The Law

Following the controversial 2023 presidential election held on February 25, Nigerians have been asking questions following the constitutional requirement for a candidate to have a quota of 25 percent of the total votes cast in Two-thirds of all the States AND the Federal Capital Territory before being declared president.

The Legal Conundrum

The main trending issue is whether or not Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), did meet the constitutional requirement of the poll of at least not less than one-quarter (1/4) of votes cast in the elections in at least two thirds (2/3) majority of all the States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); and whether he should have been declared the winner of the Presidential elections as done by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Recall results from the manually transmitted results as collated and declared by INEC on March 1, 2023, showed that Tinubu was said to have secured the highest number of votes cast at the presidential election. He is said to have garnered a total of 8,794,726 to defeat his closest rivals purportedly, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who was said to have got a total of 6,984,520, and Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), being ascribed with 6,101,533 votes.

However, in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where we have total valid votes of 478,923, Tinubu, the candidate of the APC, was said to have secured only 90,902 (19.76%) of the votes cast at the FCT; with Atiku alleged to have 74,194 (16.13%); and Peter Obi said to have 281,717 (61.23%). Did Tinubu win? Is it legally right to have declared the APC candidate winner of the poll? These and many more Parallel Facts in this article seek to answer.

What the Constitution Connotes

This legal conundrum has suffered several commentaries from Jurists, Scholars, political analysts, and even the not-so-informed.

It is interesting to note that amidst this legal uncertainty, Tinubu was nonetheless declared “winner” and even presented with the “Certificate of Return” as “President-elect” of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Here are some constitutional justifications for the 25% and FCT argument.

In the 1999 Constitution, “…and FCT” appeared nine times aside in sections 133 & 134. However, under the tabs for Federal Character Commission, the National Population Commission (NPC), Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the same statement was used to separate FCT from other States.

Based on the preceding, there are two (2) conditions for determining a winner of a presidential election:

1. A presidential candidate must secure the highest number of votes cast at the election.

2. They must secure not less than 25% of votes cast in at least two-thirds of all the States of the federation AND FCT.

The Electoral Act 2022

The Electoral Act (2022) states that the winner of the presidential election will be subjected to the provisions of section 134 of the Nigerian Constitution.

“In an election to the office of the President or Governor whether or not contested and in any contested election to any other elective office, the result shall be ascertained by counting the votes cast for each candidate and subjected to the provisions of sections 133, 134 and 179 of the Constitution,” the Electoral Act partly read.

According to the 1999 Constitution, presidential candidates must not only win a single majority, but whoever will be recognised as an elected president must have won a stipulated minimum in every region of the country.

The candidate that receives the highest number of votes shall be declared elected only if they also fulfil a quota of 25 percent of the total votes cast in about 24 states, including the Federal Capital Territory.

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Focus on the hammer, a group of files on the judge’s table covered with dust – the concept of pending old cases or work at judicial court.

Lawyers React

To understand what the law says about section 134 of the Constitution, Parallel Facts x-rayed the opinions of two renowned Nigerian lawyers.

Ridwan Oke, the legal services director of Connect Hub Nigeria, opined there will be a rerun election if the candidate with the highest number of votes still fails to have the required 25 percent.

“We have 36 states of the federation, and two-thirds of that is about 25. So, if you are a presidential candidate, you must have 25 percent of the total votes cast in at least 25 states of the federation before you are declared [winner]. If nobody has that if the candidate with the highest number of votes still fails to have the required 25 percent, there will be a rerun election,” Oke told FIJ.

“When it goes to the rerun, it will only be the majority [votes required]. So, if you are polling 10 million votes, you must have at least 25 percent of the total votes in 25 states in that majority vote. So the candidate does not have to win all those 25 states. They only need to meet the minimum 25 percent in the states,” he added.

On the contrary, Femi Falana, a foremost Nigerian legal practitioner, said a candidate could be declared winner of a presidential election in Nigeria without necessarily scoring up to 25 percent of votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory.

“Section 299 of the Constitution said the FCT shall be treated like a state,” Mr Falana told Peoples Gazette in a separate interview.

“Therefore, the constitutional requirements for 25 percent of votes in two-thirds state and the FCT only means that the FCT be added to the 36 states to arrive at 37 States.”

Conclusion

The onus of this argument lies in the mathematical exactitude of the requirement of 25%. The wordings of the Constitution are pretty straightforward and unambiguous. They demand not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the elections in at least 2/3 of all the States AND the Federal Capital Territory. By a judicial mathematical analysis, 2/3 of 36 States equals 24 States and the FCT, Abuja. For example, if Mr A requests to see 24 students (States) in School AND COLLINS (FCT), it means Mr A wants to see 25 persons in all; but COLLINS must be one of the 25 students. So, if 25 persons in Mr A’s school show up without COLLINS, has Mr A had all the persons he wants to see? The answer is NO. To satisfy Mr A’s request, COLLINS must show up in addition to the 24 others, thus making the 25 students must-see.

Report by Idowu Israel