Tribunal judgment: Tinubu, Atiku camps fight over watermarked Certified True Copy

The camps of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February 25, 2023 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar; and that of President Bola Tinubu, on Saturday, clashed over the watermark on the copy of the judgment of the Presidential Elections Petition Court which went viral on Friday.

The viral copy of the Certified True Copy of the court’s judgment had the watermark of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team on it, with commentators, especially social media users, suggesting a sinister motive.

The PEPC had on Wednesday delivered a 12-hour judgment on the appeals arising from the presidential election, upholding the election of the President who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.

Atiku and Peter Obi of the Labour Party had rejected the court’s judgment, vowing to approach the Supreme Court.

On Saturday, Atiku’s camp joined those who faulted the appearance of the watermark of the President’s legal team on the viral CTC.

In a statement issued by the Special Assistant on Public Communications to the former Vice President, Mr Phrank Shaibu, the camp urged the PEPC to explain the circumstances surrounding the appearance of the watermark on the viral copy.

The statement read in part, “After causing a needless delay in availing the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his legal team Certified True Copy of its judgment, the PEPC must explain to Nigerians and the world ambiguities around why copies of the judgment bear the header of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team.

“It is not our intention to stir up controversy on the matter, but the PEPC needs to tell Nigerians why it chose to affix the header of the respondents on the CTC copy of their judgment, whereas the copies that went to the petitioners did not have the same.

“Was that because the Tinubu legal team is deemed to be accorded special privileges? The court must explain!

“It is very clear that many questions are begging for answers, including why the PEPC decided to avail the respondents, especially the Tinubu legal team to have a first receipt of the CTC of the judgment before the plaintiffs.”

Shaibu said Nigerians would want to know why the PEPC conferred special privileges on the Tinubu legal team by making them have first custody of copies of the judgment, even though it was more urgent for the petitioners who needed the document to cause an appeal to the Supreme Court within 14 days.

He added, “Unfolding developments after the court’s ruling elicit suspicions about whether or not the Tinubu Legal Team provided clerical services to the PEPC. Otherwise, how and when did the ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ creep into a document that was supposed to be the official document of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria?

“‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ on the top left-hand corner of all the 798 pages is neither a monochrome nor a metadata. It is a header, meaning that except for a valid explanation, the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team is the originator of the document.

“The PEPC must, on its honour, clarify why the court chose to put the header of the Tinubu Legal Team on a CTC copy of its judgment document, while the only emblem that should have been on the document is the stamp of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria.”

President’s team reacts

Meanwhile, the Coordinator of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala, in a statement on Saturday berated the critics for insinuating the watermark was a result of pre-determined manipulations, saying there was nothing untoward to it.

He also said the PDP collected the first copy of the judgment and not the President’s team contrary to Shaibu’s claim.

Ogala said the team watermarked their copy of the judgment after collection from the Court of Appeal before circulating the scanned copies to members of their team.

The statement read in part, “After the delivery of judgment in the three election petitions by the Court of Appeal on September 6, 2023, the court directed its registry to make physical copies of same available on September 7, 2023.

“Accordingly, the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team applied for a Certified True Copy of the said judgment and paid the prescribed fee.

 “Lawyers for the PDP were present at the registry at the same time to collect the same judgment.

“The representative of the PDP collected the first copy that was made available by the registry.

“On collecting our copy, we immediately scanned and watermarked it with the inscription – ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team TPLT’ before circulating the scanned soft copies to the lawyers in our team.

“The Certified True Copy issued to us and other parties in the petitions by the registry does not contain the said inscription and any insinuation to the contrary is untrue.

“Counsel for the petitioners will also appreciate the fact that the insinuations being circulated in some quarters are untrue, unkind, unfair, and unfortunate, as they have the same certified copies of the judgment as we have.”

Obi writes supporters

Meanwhile, Obi has urged his supporters to keep hope alive, adding that the Wednesday judgment should not weigh them down.

He made the call in a statement made available to journalists on Saturday.

He encouraged his supporters not to be disappointed by the judgment, adding that the move to reclaim his ‘mandate’ was a marathon and not a sprint.

The former Anambra State Governor said his supporters should be aware that the “forces we are up against are entrenched and formidable but not insurmountable.

“They would resist the wind of change and try to push us into surrender or despair. We must not succumb to their design,” he added.

Speaking further, he said, “Understandably, there has been a note of general disappointment within our fold and indeed the general population of Nigerians who hoped that the outcome of the February 25 presidential election would usher in a new and different Nigeria of our dreams. That dream has only been deferred for now but remains alive for all times.

“Since the tribunal’s verdict, there has been a note of general despair among Obidients and the generality of our supporters. Let me assure us all that on this journey, despair or surrender are not our options.

“Today, I want to personally reach out and encourage you all to keep hope alive. Considering the challenges that lie ahead of us as a movement, despair is not an option. Nothing good in life comes easy. Throughout history, positive change comes only with sacrifice, perseverance, resilience and fluctuating fortunes.

“Right from the onset of our journey, I told you that the journey upon which we were about to embark was not a short sprint but a long and tough marathon. It was always going to be difficult, painful and excruciating.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Works and former governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, has declared that Tinubu was ordained by God to lead the country, noting that he had maintained that stance since the electioneering period.

“I urge the Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Obi, and other Igbo stakeholders to support Tinubu.

“The President gave us the foremost ministerial position even when we didn’t vote well for him,” he told the News Agency of Nigeria, in an interview on Saturday.

Obi, Atiku to meet deadline

Meanwhile, Obi’s lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, told Sunday PUNCH on the telephone on Saturday that despite the initial delay in getting the CTC of the judgment, his team was working hard to meet the 14-day deadline to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.

He said, “We lost three days out of the 14 days available to us. We are now working very hard to take care of that situation. We would have loved to have had the CTC of the judgment delivered on September 6 latest the following day and would have commenced work immediately but that did not happen. Now we are battling with time constraints.

“Nonetheless, we are working round the clock and harder than we should have done to meet up with the time. I can assure you, we will meet up. What we need to do is to work harder than we would have done.”

Atiku’s legal team has also vowed to meet the 14-day deadline.

His lawyer, Prof. Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who spoke with one of our correspondents on Saturday, said the legal team “is working hard towards meeting the deadline.

“We are already in possession of the CTC and we are identifying the areas where we would base our opinion on. We won’t let our client and Nigerians down.”

Asked how the team intends to beat the deadline, Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) said, “We are working round the clock.

Oyetola speaks

Meanwhile, the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, has predicted that the Supreme Court would affirm Tinubu’s victory.

Oyetola spoke in his hometown, Iragbiji, Osun State on Saturday, at a reception held in his honour by the community following his recent appointment as a minister.

Speaking in Yoruba Language, Oyetola said, “I want to congratulate the President (Bola Tinubu) on his victory at the tribunal which I know is permanent.

“If they like, they should take the matter to a court that is higher than the Supreme Court, the judgment by the judges is so powerful and clear. They should wait for another four years, they can repeat the class that they have failed.”

Source: The PUNCH

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