Human rights lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, believes that votes cast in all parts of Nigeria are equal, and that Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, has been interpreted as the country’s 37th state.
He was referring to Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution, which has become a contentious issue following the 2023 presidential election.
However, on Channels Television Sunday Politics, Falana stated that he will not make a definitive comment on the issue at this time because it has become a serious legal matter that is 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.
According to Section 134 sub-section 1 (b) of the 1999 Constitution, a presidential election winner must receive at least one-quarter of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of the federation’s states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), failed to secure 25% of the vote in the FCT, raising concerns about the interpretation of that section of the Constitution.
Tinubu’s declaration as the winner of the 2023 presidential election has been challenged by Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party in the Presidential Election Tribunal. Atiku and Obi came in second and third place, respectively.