A court in Nigeria has been asked to halt the planned inauguration of the country’s next president and extend the incumbent’s term, court documents obtained on Friday show.
Five Nigerians applied to the Supreme Court in Abuja, arguing that President-elect Bola Tinubu was illegally declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election and therefore should not be sworn in on May 29.
The petition is among several challenges to the ruling party’s victory and has raised concerns in the West African country about a possible constitutional crisis if President Muhammadu Buhari remains in office until the case is decided.
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Chuks Nwachuku, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said Tinubu’s being declared president-elect was unconstitutional because he failed to obtain at least 25% of the votes cast in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
To be elected president, the Nigerian Constitution requires a candidate to obtain the highest number of votes overall and not less than a quarter of the votes in each of at least two-thirds of the country’s 36 states and Abuja.
The interpretation of this constitutional provision has remained a matter of debate in Nigeria.
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“Nobody can be sworn in who has not complied with the provisions of the constitution. We are asking for a statement that the president remains in office until the succession issue is resolved,” Nwachuku told The Associated Press.
Nigeria’s two main opposition parties have previously disputed the presidential victory of the All Progressives Congress party, claiming the election results were rigged.
While the opposition’s electoral defiance was not expected to prevent Tinubu from taking office, analysts warned that extending Buhari’s term could create a crisis for a country with a troubled history of long military rule and electoral violence.
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“The petition is a recipe for crisis. All previous elections have been contested, but at no point has anyone pushed for the constitutional provision to usher in the winner to be stopped, so this is very worrying,” said Idayat Hassan, who heads the Center for Democracy and Development, an Abuja-based research and advocacy organization.