Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, says those who are bandying the assertion that anyone aspiring to be Nigeria’s president must garner 25% of the votes cast in Abuja – the Federal Capital Territory – are misinterpreting the constitution.
Falana averred that votes cast in all parts of Nigeria are equal, adding that Abuja has been interpreted to be the 37th state of the country.
He was commenting on Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution which has become a contentious issue in the aftermath of the 2023 presidential election.
Speaking on Channels Television Sunday Politics, Falana said he will not be making a definite comment on the issue at the moment since it has become a serious legal matter now pending in court, noting that court decisions on the status of Abuja already exist.
“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.
Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was declared winner of the February 25 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to secure 25% votes in the FCT, raising concerns about the interpretation that section of the Constitution.
Both 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.