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Nigerian election tribunal upholds president’s victory

Court ruling comes amid growing economic frustration

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (center) after taking an oath of office in Abuja, Nigeria, May 29 Associated Press/Photo by Olamikan Gbemiga, File

Nigerian election tribunal upholds president’s victory

An appeals court in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, dismissed challenges to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s electoral victory late Wednesday.

The court’s decision put the country on edge as Nigerians face rising economic pressure and watch growing political instability on the continent. Outside the court, heavy security cordoned off streets as demonstrators for and against Tinubu’s administration sang and held up banners. Security forces also set up blockades across other strategic locations in the city after threats of protests.

Tinubu is marking 100 days in office following a divisive vote in February that set off allegations of irregularities. On March 1, Nigeria’s electoral commission announced that Tinubu clinched nearly 37 percent of the votes, making him the country’s first president to garner less than 50 percent. His main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, landed 29 percent, while Peter Obi, a Christian from the southeast who brought a new third-party challenge, won 25 percent.

Abubakar, Obi, and a third opposition candidate filed the court petitions earlier this year. They argued that Tinubu and his vice president, Kashim Shettima, were ineligible for candidacy. They also questioned the election commission’s process of transmitting results and whether Tinubu received enough votes to meet a threshold requirement for the winning candidate.

The five judges at the Presidential Election Petition Court ruled that the petitioners failed to prove that the election commission manipulated results and did not follow due process.

“The petitioners alleged overvoting and rigging but did not specify the polling units,” said Justice Abba Mohammed, one of the tribunal’s judges. “The petitioners only made generic allegations.”

In a televised ruling that lasted more than 12 hours, the court also concluded that a $460,000 fine Tinubu paid in a 1993 U.S. lawsuit over laundering profits from narcotics trafficking did not disqualify him from running for office. The judges added that Shettima met the minimum requirements to contest as Tinubu’s running mate.

Tinubu is attending the G20 summit in India. Shettima said the ruling proves that “democracy has finally triumphed.”

Nigeria has never overturned an election result. Petitioners can still appeal the court’s ruling at the Supreme Court within 14 days.

“We have the firm instruction of our client to challenge the judgment on appeal,” said Livy Uzoukwu, Obi’s lawyer.

Since assuming office, Tinubu has implemented major reforms he called necessary for the economy. He allowed the Nigerian naira to float freely against the dollar by removing multiple exchange rates, and his administration lifted a yearslong fuel subsidy.

Tinubu said the subsidy withdrawal saved Nigeria more than $1 billion in just over two months. But it caused fuel prices to triple and hit several other sectors. People have reported fewer cars on the road and a jump in the prices of commodities like bread. In July, authorities declared a national emergency as food prices soared due to the fuel subsidy removal and violence in northern Nigeria.

On Tuesday, workers with the Nigeria Labor Congress launched what it called a “warning strike” over economic hardships. The two-day strike shut down power in parts of Abuja and other cities and also closed down some banks. The labor union has threatened to “shut down” Nigeria if the government fails to address its demands for better living conditions.

Nnwabunnwane Maduako, a taxi driver in Abuja, said he could not drop off passengers on Wednesday because of roadblocks. The strike also left his home without power.

“My generator has been down since the increase of fuel price,” he said Thursday. “I had to pull it out yesterday, because of my wife’s business, to go and fix it.”

Maduako said he now spends more money on fueling his car for work and isn’t sure how he would find the funds to pay his children’s school fees in the coming week.

“It’s biting hard on the masses,” he said.

Nigeria’s political test comes as other African countries battle political tensions.

Tinubu, who was elected the chair of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on July 9, is leading the bloc’s push for a return to democracy in Niger. Mutinous soldiers who seized power there late in July had proposed a three-year transition plan. Ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum remains in military custody.

On Monday in Gabon, coup leader Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema assumed office as the country’s new leader. He led the military takeover late in August after the electoral commission declared President Ali Bongo Ondimba the winner of a presidential vote. Bongo assumed office in 2009 after his father, Omar, ruled Gabon for 41 years. Late on Wednesday, Nguema released Ondimba from house arrest, saying he is also free to travel out of the country for medical check-ups.

In Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa began a second term in office on Monday after a disputed election that the main opposition called “a gigantic fraud.”

Back in Nigeria, Tinubu’s government still faces an Islamist insurgency and armed groups that continue to target communities in the northeast and northwest. Last month, Nigeria’s secret police warned that terrorists were planning an attack on the railway that links Kaduna state to Abuja.

Taxi driver Maduako is uncertain that the growing problems would lead to a mass revolt. But he says the frustration would surface by Nigeria’s next election.

“There would be more voter apathy,” he said.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.


These summarize the news that I could never assemble or discover by myself. —Keith

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