- Tinubu won the disputed presidential election in February
- The court rejects the appeal filed by Atiku and Obi
- Little public enthusiasm for Tinubu after low turnout
- Tinubu urges his rivals to rally behind his government
ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s presidential election court on Wednesday rejected appeals by opposition rivals against Paula Tinubu’s victory in a disputed election in February, following a pattern seen in previous election years in Africa’s most populous country.
No legal challenge to the presidential election results has been successful in Nigeria, which returned to democracy in 1999 after three decades of almost continuous military rule and has a history of electoral fraud.
Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labor Party, who came second and third respectively, had asked the court to annul the elections, claiming irregularities.
The five-member court judges took turns reading the verdicts for more than 11 hours, dismissing Atiku and Obi’s individual petitions point by point.
Judge Haruna Tsamani said Obi’s petition was “unfounded” and “no sufficient reliable evidence was presented” to support allegations of wrongdoing.
Tasmani said Atiku’s allegations of vote-rigging were “extremely weak” and rejected his argument that Tinubu was ineligible to run for president.
“Petitions are hereby dismissed,” Tasmani said.
Obi and Atiku, who were not in court, could not immediately be reached for comment. Obi’s Workers’ Party rejected the ruling in a statement and said it would announce its next steps after a meeting with lawyers.
In a statement from India as he prepares to participate in the G20 summit, Tinubu welcomed the court’s ruling and urged his rivals and their supporters to support his government.
EU observers said in June that the elections were marred by problems including practical failures and a lack of transparency, which led to a decline in public confidence in the process.
However, the elections produced little sign of growing popular opposition, and Tinubu was accepted by the international community as Nigeria’s legitimate leader.
Atiku and Obi can appeal to the country’s supreme court to overturn the court’s ruling. Any appeal must be completed within 60 days of the date of the court’s ruling.
Although the court’s ruling was in Tinubu’s favour, it is unlikely to generate any particular euphoria or momentum for the president after an election marked by a record low turnout of 29%.
And in a country of more than 200 million people, of which 87 million are registered to vote, Tinubu got just 8.79 million votes, the fewest by any president since the return to democracy, limiting his goodwill.
Additional reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by McDonald-Dzirotoy and Estelle Sherbon; Editing by Allison Williams, Bill Berkrot, and Timothy Gardner
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