Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has stated that votes cast in all parts of Nigeria are equal as Abuja – the Federal Capital Territory has been interpreted in the constitution to be the 37th state of the country.
Following the electoral disputes brought by the opposition over INEC’s declaration of APC’s Bola Tinubu as president elect despite not getting 25% of votes in the FCT, Falana says Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution already makes the status of Abuja clear.
Speaking on Channels Television Sunday Politics, Falana said;
“I had expressed an opinion on section 134 of the Constitution on the 23rd of January this year – that is about a month before the presidential election. On that occasion, I expressed a legal opinion and that is why I was very hesitant to join the bandwagon when lawyers started to give political interpretations of that section.
“I did state that there is no electoral college in Nigeria and therefore the votes cast or recorded in any part of the country are equal. Section 134 of the Constitution specifically requires a winner of a presidential election to meet certain requirements. The first one is to score the majority of lawful votes and the second is territorial spread, a two-thirds majority of the states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“And since the FCT has been interpreted to be a 37th state in Nigeria for the purpose of the constitution I didn’t see any controversy at the material time and that was when I expressed my opinion.
“But now that it has become a serious legal issue and the matter is now pending in court, I am very reluctant to speak definitively on the section because there are decisions of the court on the status of Abuja,” Falana said.
Section 134 sub-section 1 (b) of the 1999 Constitution states that a winner of a presidential election must not have 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.
Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party have filed petitions at the Presidential Election Tribunal challenging Tinubu’s declaration as the winner of the 2023 presidential election. Atiku and Obi were placed second and third respectively by INEC.