Nigerian Court Rejects Challenges to Contested Presidential Election

A judicial tribunal in Nigeria confirmed on Wednesday the results of a contested February presidential election that kept Africa’s most populous country on edge amid allegations of voting irregularities and tainted the first months in power for the declared winner, President Bola Tinubu.

In their petitions, opponents of Mr. Tinubu argued that he should have been disqualified from running in the first place because of irregularities with his candidacy, and that Nigeria’s electoral commission had failed to release the results on time, opening the way for potential fraud.

But judges in Abuja, the capital, rejected all three petitions for lack of credible evidence, they said.

Nigerian television channels broadcast the court decision live on television amid high tensions in the capital, Abuja, and hints by the opposition that a validation of the results could prompt Nigerians to take to the streets. There were no immediate reports of unrest.

The plaintiffs have 60 days to file an appeal to Nigeria’s Supreme Court.

Since he was sworn in last May, Mr. Tinubu has rocked Nigeria’s economy with what analysts and foreign investors say was the long overdue scrapping of an oil subsidy. But the soaring transportation, food and electricity prices that ensued have hurt tens of millions of Nigerians and taken a toll on Mr. Tinubu’s popularity.

Mr. Tinubu has also faced stiff challenges abroad. In neighboring Niger, mutinous soldiers seized power in a coup just two weeks after Mr. Tinubu took the helm of an economic bloc of West African countries and vowed to put an end to an epidemic of military takeovers in the region — by force, if necessary.

Supporters of Atiku Abubakar protesting the election results in Abuja, Nigeria, in March.Credit…Gbemiga Olamikan/Associated Press

The generals in Niger haven’t budged. They have refused to release the president they ousted and ignored Mr. Tinubu’s threat of a military intervention. After weeks of stalemate, and a backlash at home about a potential war with a neighboring country, Mr. Tinubu appears to have taken a back seat in the negotiations with Niger’s junta, at least publicly.

In March, Nigeria’s electoral commission declared Mr. Tinubu the winner of a single-round presidential election with 37 percent of the vote, ahead of the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who won 29 percent, and Peter Obi, who finished a surprising third with 25 percent of the vote.

Both Mr. Obi’s and Mr. Abubakar’s parties disputed the results in court. They argued that Mr. Tinubu wasn’t qualified to be president, citing what they said were forged academic records and an indictment for drug trafficking in the United States. He was not indicted, but the U.S. government did file a complaint of forfeiture under which Mr. Tinubu paid $460,000 in settlements in 1993.

For months, Nigerians questioned the credibility of the country’s judiciary ahead of Wednesday’s ruling, with the hashtag All Eyes On The Judiciary a trending topic on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Mr. Tinubu, who was attending the G20 summit in India on Wednesday, had denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 after decades of military rule, all but one of its elections have been contested in court, but none have been overruled.

Pius Adeleye contributed reporting from Ilorin, Nigeria.

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