Tinubu’s inauguration: Military, IG warn troublemakers as court hears anti-handover case
The military and the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba on Monday read the Riot Act to individuals and groups opposed to the inauguration of the President-elect, Bola Tinubu on May 29.
The Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, re-echoed the military warning to dissident groups that any threats to the transition programme and by extension to democracy in the country would be crushed.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, had earlier threatened to crack down on potential threats to national security and warned troublemakers not to test the will of the military.
Gusau, while responding to inquiries on the threats to the inauguration, explained that the military stood by the warning it earlier issued to groups calling for an interim government.
Asked if the military was ready to neutralize threats to the inauguration ceremony, he simply answered, ‘’Yes,’’ adding that the preparation for the event was ongoing.
“We are already doing our rehearsals for the march past parade,’’ he noted.
Addressing journalists at a press briefing at the Force Headquarters, Louis Edet House, Abuja, the IG said the police and other security agencies are ready to deal with aggrieved political actors and their supporters plotting to scuttle the swearing-in programme.
The Defence headquarters and the police handed down the warning on Monday as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja fixed Thursday for hearing of a suit seeking to stop the inauguration of the former Lagos State governor.
Justice Inyang Ekwo on Monday asked the five applicants who sued on behalf of the Federal Capital Territory residents and voters to convince the court of their locus standi, jurisdiction and whether there is a similar matter before the presidential elections court.
But speaking against the background of the clamour by some people for an interim government and alleged incitement statements that Tinubu should not be sworn in as the president, the IG cautioned those involved in any plot to destabilise the presidential inauguration to desist as the security agencies were determined to protect democracy in the country.
He stated, “The Nigeria Police hereby sternly warns all political actors with subversion agenda and their collaborators, particularly, their foot soldiers who they are exposing to political radicalization and extremism to, henceforth, jettison their ongoing premeditated attempts to create tension within the national space with intention of derailing the May 29, 2023 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony.
“Any such persons, regardless of their political affiliations who continuously engage in acts that are inimical to our nation’s democratic and security interests should not be in doubt of the firm determination of the Nigeria police under my watch to closely collaborate with the law enforcement family and the intelligence community to defend our democracy, keep the internal security order stable and optimally deploy our common unique assets towards guaranteeing the successful conduct of the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony.’’
The police chief admonished the citizens to be mindful of the antics of political elements who may want to manipulate their political passion to advance parochial, undemocratic and unconstitutional objectives.
“They should resist such, go about their lawful businesses and prepare to be part of the advancement of our democratic journey as patriotic citizens by freely participating in the inauguration ceremonies, assured that the Nigeria Police have acquired adequate assets to guarantee their protection,’’ he admonished.
Baba further encouraged Nigerians to promptly report for appropriate law enforcement response to any attempts by the misguided political elements to infiltrate their ranks and engender political tension in the country.
Court adjourns suit
Meanwhile, Justice Ekwo has adjourned till May 18 to enable the plaintiffs in the suit seeking to stop Tinubu’s inauguration as president to respond to the issues of locus and jurisdiction.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/578/202, the plaintiffs aver that Tinubu failed to secure at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the FCT.
The Plaintiffs-Anyaegbunam Ubaka Okoye, David Aondover Adzer, Jeffrey Oheobeh Ucheh, Osang Paul and Chibuke Nwachukwu representing themselves and other residents and registered voters in the FCT, are seeking an order of court restraining the Chief Justice of Nigeria and any judicial officer and/or any authority or persons from swearing in any candidate in the February 25 presidential election as president or vice president.
They want the court to set aside the certificate of return issued to Tinubu and restrain the CJN and any other judicial officer from swearing in any candidate in the presidential election as president or vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria until the issue is determined in court.
The applicants are equally seeking a determination of section 134 (2)(b) of the constitution in regard to any candidate in the February 25 presidential election ‘’who did not fulfil the requirements of the 25 per cent of the votes in the FCT.’’
They are also praying for a declaration that “no candidate in the February 25th presidential election may validly be sworn in as president and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without such candidate having obtained 25 per cent of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
The plaintiffs also want a declaration extending the tenure of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) pending when a successor is determined in accordance with the constitution.
During the proceedings on Monday, counsel for the plaintiffs, Chuks Nwachukwu informed the court that they had filed the ex parte application and originating motions seeking a referral of the constitutional matters to the Court of Appeal for interpretation.
Speaking to our correspondent, Nwachukwu stated that the president-elect did not tick all the requirements that could empower him to assume the office of the president.
He said the argument that past presidents also had pending petitions even as they were sworn in did not hold water.
According to him, the past presidents had met all requirements as prescribed by the Constitution.
He argued, “They had ticked all the boxes on paper and were deemed elected by the constitution. But the constitution does not deem Tinubu duly elected because he has not ticked all the boxes.”
He said he was not concerned about those who argue that there will be a vacuum if Tinubu is not sworn in by May 29 because the constitution allows the incumbent president to oversee the affairs of the nation until a qualified candidate takes over.
Nwachukwu stated, “We are convinced that there is nobody who will not understand our cause. The election petitioners are struggling among themselves about who should be the winner. We are not interested in who the winner is.
“What we are interested in is that whoever would be sworn in should obtain 25 per cent in Abuja and if he does not, then there is nobody to be sworn in on the 29th of May.
The Chief Spokesman for Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, aligned with the position taken by the FCT residents only if the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal grants their prayers to render the February 25 poll null and void.
Tanko stated that they are looking forward to a situation where the court allows the Senate president to be sworn in until a substantive president is elected.
He said, “What I know in order not to sound presumptuous is that there will be a swearing-in on May 29 and if we get to win our case at the election petition tribunal, the swearing-in will only involve the president of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is by the premises of section 146 (2).
“Our prayer is that the election should be cancelled and declared null and void. This should be the position since the APC candidate did not get 25 per cent in Abuja. If defined deeply, it gives the power to section 146 of the Constitutional provision which states that “In the event that there is no president, the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan will take over. If the present case goes the way we are praying, what it means is that Lawan will take over as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“And if Lawan is not returned in the 10th Assembly, he must hand over to the newly elected president of the Senate on June 10. He will then ask for nine months to conduct a fresh election for the president of the country to emerge. That is how it should be to avoid lacuna anywhere.”
But the Legal Director of the dissolved Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Babatunde Ogala, SAN, frowned on the application which he described as ‘a frivolous, vexatious and nauseating application.’
Ogala further expressed disappointment with the lawyer that instituted the case, saying he deserves to be invited to answer some questions for ‘’allowing himself to be pushed around by some interlopers seeking to upturn a case that is already in PEPT.’’
He stated, “I am aware that a summon was filed by One Chuks Nwachukwu, a lawyer, and a group of five persons, purporting to act for themselves and representatives of whoever they say in Abuja. My immediate reaction is that I expect them to serve the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the people they want to restrain from carrying out their constitutional duties under whatever law that empowers that.
“The electoral issues are so clear. The only body that has jurisdiction over electoral issues is an election tribunal. And the Court of Appeal has constituted a presidential election petition tribunal where issues have been joined as of today.
“Proceedings will continue from tomorrow or the day after. But some interlopers and busybodies are now saying ‘Don’t swear in until they interpret something that is already in the court of appeal.’ That is what they are filing in the high court. Well, they have submitted to the judges of the court and felt the court should offer them appropriately.’’
Slamming Nwachukwu for taking the brief, the senior lawyer noted, ‘’ I think whichever lawyer filed such an application ought to answer some disciplinary questions, both from the court and even the profession. That a matter that the court of appeal has already sealed up and is in the jurisdiction of the PEPT and the parties that contested the election have already submitted themselves to the court; that’s what some five busybodies got a lawyer to come and file what I will call a frivolous, vexatious and nauseating application before the federal high court to restrain the CJN.’’
“It is a shame that a lawyer of the standing of the name I saw on that portal could file that if he is the person I think filed it. There is nothing they can do. They are only wasting time. It is a bloody waste of everybody’s time. Let them tell the court to trample on the law that you want to rewrite the law all because your client or candidate lost an election,” he said.