The camps of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February 25, 2023 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar; and that of President Bola Tinubu, on Saturday, clashed over the watermark on the copy of the judgment of the Presidential Elections Petition Court which went viral on Friday.
The viral copy of the Certified True Copy of the court’s judgment had the watermark of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team on it, with commentators, especially social media users, suggesting a sinister motive.
The PEPC had on Wednesday delivered a 12-hour judgment on the appeals arising from the presidential election, upholding the election of the President who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
Atiku and Peter Obi of the Labour Party had rejected the court’s judgment, vowing to approach the Supreme Court.
On Saturday, Atiku’s camp joined those who faulted the appearance of the watermark of the President’s legal team on the viral CTC.
In a statement issued by the Special Assistant on Public Communications to the former Vice President, Mr Phrank Shaibu, the camp urged the PEPC to explain the circumstances surrounding the appearance of the watermark on the viral copy.
The statement read in part, “After causing a needless delay in availing the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his legal team Certified True Copy of its judgment, the PEPC must explain to Nigerians and the world ambiguities around why copies of the judgment bear the header of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team.
“It is not our intention to stir up controversy on the matter, but the PEPC needs to tell Nigerians why it chose to affix the header of the respondents on the CTC copy of their judgment, whereas the copies that went to the petitioners did not have the same.
“Was that because the Tinubu legal team is deemed to be accorded special privileges? The court must explain!
“It is very clear that many questions are begging for answers, including why the PEPC decided to avail the respondents, especially the Tinubu legal team to have a first receipt of the CTC of the judgment before the plaintiffs.”
Shaibu said Nigerians would want to know why the PEPC conferred special privileges on the Tinubu legal team by making them have first custody of copies of the judgment, even though it was more urgent for the petitioners who needed the document to cause an appeal to the Supreme Court within 14 days.
He added, “Unfolding developments after the court’s ruling elicit suspicions about whether or not the Tinubu Legal Team provided clerical services to the PEPC. Otherwise, how and when did the ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ creep into a document that was supposed to be the official document of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria?
“‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ on the top left-hand corner of all the 798 pages is neither a monochrome nor a metadata. It is a header, meaning that except for a valid explanation, the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team is the originator of the document.
“The PEPC must, on its honour, clarify why the court chose to put the header of the Tinubu Legal Team on a CTC copy of its judgment document, while the only emblem that should have been on the document is the stamp of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria.”
President’s team reacts
Meanwhile, the Coordinator of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala, in a statement on Saturday berated the critics for insinuating the watermark was a result of pre-determined manipulations, saying there was nothing untoward to it.
He also said the PDP collected the first copy of the judgment and not the President’s team contrary to Shaibu’s claim.
Ogala said the team watermarked their copy of the judgment after collection from the Court of Appeal before circulating the scanned copies to members of their team.
The statement read in part, “After the delivery of judgment in the three election petitions by the Court of Appeal on September 6, 2023, the court directed its registry to make physical copies of same available on September 7, 2023.
“Accordingly, the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team applied for a Certified True Copy of the said judgment and paid the prescribed fee.
“Lawyers for the PDP were present at the registry at the same time to collect the same judgment.
“The representative of the PDP collected the first copy that was made available by the registry.
“On collecting our copy, we immediately scanned and watermarked it with the inscription – ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team TPLT’ before circulating the scanned soft copies to the lawyers in our team.
“The Certified True Copy issued to us and other parties in the petitions by the registry does not contain the said inscription and any insinuation to the contrary is untrue.
“Counsel for the petitioners will also appreciate the fact that the insinuations being circulated in some quarters are untrue, unkind, unfair, and unfortunate, as they have the same certified copies of the judgment as we have.”