The Tinubu Presidential Legal Team has responded to the controversy over its watermark on the widely circulated copies of the judgement of the Presidential Elections Petition Tribunal.
The watermarked copy had been a subject of controversy especially on social media with critics alleging a sinister move.
Responding to the criticism, TPLT coordinator, 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 explained that they watermarked their copy of the judgement after collection from the Court of Appeal before circulating the scanned copies to members of their team.
The statement read, “Following some mischievous insinuations being made in certain quarters regarding the innocuous water-mark of copies of the consolidated judgment of the Court of Appeal with the inscription -“Tinubu Presidential Legal Team ‘TPLT’”, it is has become necessary to offer this clarification.
“After the delivery of judgment in the 3 (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 PDP were present at the registry at the same time to collect the same judgment.
“In fact, the representative of the PDP collected the first copy that was made available by the registry.
“On collecting our own copy, we immediately scanned and watermarked 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.”
According to a statement signed by Phrank Shaibu, Special Assistant (Communications) to Atiku Abubakar, Nigerians and the world need to know why the header of Tinubu Presidential Legal Team was on CTC copies of its judgment.
The statements reads: “PEPC must explain to Nigerians and the world why the header of Tinubu Presidential Legal Team was on CTC copies of its judgment.
“After causing needless delay in availing the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his legal team Certified True Copies of its judgment, the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) must explain to Nigerians and the world ambiguities around why copies of the judgment bears the header of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team.
“It is not our intention to stir up controversy on the matter, but it is very important that the PEPC should tell Nigerians why they 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 there are many questions begging for answers, including why the PEPC came to the decision to avail the Respondents, especially the Tinubu Legal Team to have a first receipt of the CTC of the judgment before the Plaintiffs.
“The curiosity is more confounding based on the fact that the lead counsel to Atiku and the PDP had pleaded in the open court to have express receipt of the judgment, to which Justice Haruna Tsammani agreed to and promised to make the document available the following day, which was Thursday.
“Nigerians want to know why the PEPC confers special privileges to the Tinubu Legal Team by making them have a first custody of copies of the PEPC judgment, even though it was more urgent for the Petitioners who needed the document in order to cause an appeal to the Supreme Court within 14 days including weekends.
“In the course of delivering its judgement, the PEPC had spoken of the petition it was ruling upon in a vexatious and denigrating language as if it was a crime to bring a case of electoral banditry before the court.
“However, 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.
“We need to restate that the ‘Tinubu Presidential Legal Team’ on the top left-hand corner of all the 798 pages is neither a monochrome nor a metadata. It is actually a HEADER, meaning that except for a valid explanation, the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team is the originator of the document. For the purposes of clarity, “a header is text that is placed at the top of a page, while a footer is placed at the bottom of a page. Typically, these areas are used for inserting information such as the name of the document, the chapter heading, page numbers, creation date, and the like.” On the other hand, watermark is “a faint design made in some paper during manufacture that is visible when held against the light and typically identifies the maker of the document.”
“The PEPC must, on its honour if indeed it still has any, 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.
“Again, the PEPC must explain why it came to the discretionary decision of having the Respondents have a custody of the judgement earlier in the day on Friday while only making same available to the Petitioners later in the day, and only after the lead counsel to Atiku and PDP had written a second letter (the first was on Thursday) to the court demanding for copies of the judgment.
“Moreover, we have it on good authority that when the PEPC was informed that the CTC copies of the judgment given to the Respondents was already circulating in the public domain with the header of TPLT on it, a further delay was necessitated by the need for it to undertake a laundry of the documents by removing the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team header before handing over same to the lawyers of Atiku.
“Whereas the legal team of the PDP and Atiku have statutory 14 days to prepare its appeal to the Supreme Court, the PEPC had erased 2 days out of that 14 days, no thanks to the PEPC whose Chairman, Justice Tsamani had promised to make available the CTC copy of the judgment to Atiku a day after its judgement was rendered, which ought to have been on Thursday.
“Nigerians and the world are earnestly waiting for answers to these posers as the legal challenge shifts to the Supreme Court. Otherwise, it will validate suspicions that there were external factors involved in the formulation of the judgment and bring the entire judiciary of Nigeria into disrepute.
“Make no mistake about it. This legal challenge to the electoral banditry of February 25, which has now shifted to the apex court, is not about Atiku. It is indeed our last ditch effort to salvage our country and deepen our democracy. Against the background of the decimation of nearly all of the institutions of state including the Independent National Electoral Commission which dragged us into this quagmire, our intent is to ensure that the judiciary, the last hope of the common man does not go to the dogs.”
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.