Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, has maintained that in order to be declared the winner of a presidential election, a candidate must receive 25% of the votes cast in the election in two-thirds of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
This comes as a constitutional lawyer, Prof. Mike Ozekhome (INEC), criticizes the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for declaring Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as President-elect despite failing to achieve the required 25% in the FCT.
Aondoakaa stated this while appearing as a guest on the ARISE NEWS Channel program, claiming that this requirement was mandated by law and has not changed since the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in 2008.
Since the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Tinubu the winner of the February 25 presidential election on Wednesday, lawyers have had mixed reactions (INEC). Tinubu received 8,794,726 votes, defeating Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who received 6,984,520 votes, and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who received 6,101,533 votes.
While Tinubu and Atiku each won 12 states, Obi won 11 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and Kwankwaso only defeated the three in Kano State.
Only Obi, one of the three leading presidential candidates, won the FCT, which is thought to be a strict constitutional requirement for becoming President of Nigeria.
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Obi received 281,987 votes, or 62% of the total votes cast in the FCT, while Tinubu received 90,902 votes, or 20%. Atiku received 73,743 votes, or 16% of the total votes cast. While the 1999 Constitution states that a presidential candidate must receive the most votes cast in the election, it also states that the candidate must receive at least 25% of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the federation’s states and the FCT. Despite receiving the highest number of votes cast in the election and receiving at least 25% of valid votes in at least 24 states, Tinubu was defeated Lagos State governor did not secure 25 per cent in the FCT.
Specifically, Section 134 (2) states: “A candidate for an election to the Office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being more than two candidates for the election: (a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
While noting that the matter is already in court and that he would not dwell on it further, the former AGF recalled that the Supreme Court had resolved the issue of the 25% in 2/3 of the federation’s states and the FCT in 2008 in a suit involving the current President, Muhammadu Buhari, and the then President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
“It’s a difficult situation,” he said, adding that “the matter has been interpreted before, around 2008, in a matter involving the current President.” Perhaps the Supreme Court will reconsider because it was a long time ago, but for the time being, that is the interpretation.” The interpretation was that the states and the Federal Capital Territory were to be read together. In other words, according to the Supreme Court’s 2008 interpretation, you must get 25% in 2/3 and 25% in the FCT.
“But I know the Supreme Court has a right to depart from his previous decisions if the justices of the case demand so. “I’m not sure if they’d follow their own decision or deviate from it in a similar situation,” he added. Meanwhile, a constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ozekhome (SAN), has criticized INEC for declaring Tinubu the president-elect despite failing to achieve the required 25% in the FCT.
“The Constitution says you must get 25% in 24 states, and in the FCT, Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not get 25%, and because he did not get 25% in the FCT, he should not have been declared president as INEC wrongly did,” he said. While claiming that the presidential election on February 25 was not free, fair, or credible, Ozekhome stated that Tinubu would “carry a very heavy, strong burden of legitimacy and lack of it on his neck like an albatross; it doesn’t require demonstration or protest on the street; the issue is a moral burden on him.”
According to the senior lawyer, the Constitution clearly distinguishes the FCT as a separate entity or a special territory, wherein the presidential candidate must obtain at least 25% of the total votes cast in the election, by seeking 25% in 2/3 of all the states of the federation and the FCT. “The framers of the Constitution undoubtedly desired for Nigeria a President who is widely accepted with a national spread, rather than one who has only the support of his tribe or region. As a result of our uniqueness as a multi-diverse and multi-faceted nation, they included sections on presidential election in the Constitution.
“The provisions of Section 134 of the Constitution are intended to reflect this. Similarly, the framers of the Constitution saw the FCT as a melting pot, a mini-Nigeria. As a result, as one commentator put it, the FCT’s position or status is that of a mandatory question that a presidential candidate must answer in the electoral examination.
“The only logical conclusion is that sections 134 and 299 are neither mutually exclusive nor contradictory. Section 299, on the other hand, supports and supplements Section 134. To demonstrate this distinction, the FCT has never held elections for gubernatorial candidates or state Houses of Assembly members, as states do. Rather, the FCT is governed by the President under Section 301 of the Constitution an appointed Minister as his proxy in the form of Minister of the FCT. Likewise, the FCT does not have its own state House of Assembly but legislates through the National Assembly. This, therefore, speaks to its distinct status, which is not affected by section 299.
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