Atiku Vs Buhari: Judgement Day As Tribunal Rules

The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja will today
deliver judgement in the petition filed by the presidential candidate
of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and his party
against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All
Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 23, 2019 election.

The
secretariat of the tribunal located at the premises of the Court of
Appeal, Abuja Division had yesterday indicated that the judgement will
be delivered today by 9.00a.m.

Loading...

The notice reads: “Presidential
Election Tribunal: Please be informed, notice has been given for
judgement to be delivered tomorrow (today) September 11, 2019, 9.00am.”

The
Electoral Law had provided for the Tribunal to hear and determine the
petition within 180 days. The time frame elapses on Sunday, September
15.

Justice Mohammed Garba, Chairman of the five-man panel of
justices had stated that the judgement date would be communicated to
parties.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had
on February 27, declared Buhari and his party, the APC, as the winner
of the presidential election, having polled a total of 15,191,847 votes
to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, who it said polled a total of
11,262,978 votes.

Atiku, PDP’s petition

Not satisfied with
the result, Atiku and his party had in a joint petition approached the
Tribunal through their team of lawyers led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) to
challenge the election on the ground that the result released by INEC
was not the true position of the election.

It was the contention
of the petitioners that they won the election, based on the results
transmitted electronically to INEC’s server.

They also contended
that Buhari did not possess the relevant academic qualification to
contest the election. Joined as 1st to 3rd Respondents are: INEC, Buhari
and the APC.

Atiku and his party in their petition marked
CA/PEPC/002/2019 and filed on March 18 submitted that the APC candidate,
Buhari, was not validly elected by the majority of votes cast across
the country in the February 23 presidential election.

The
petitioners also contended that the election was marred by corruption.
In addition, the petitioners alleged that the election of Buhari is
invalid, having not complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

Also
the petitioners submitted that Buhari was not at the time of the
election qualified to contest, having submitted a fake academic
qualification to the electoral body.

Reliefs sought

The
petitioners in their reliefs prayed the tribunal to declare that Buhari
was not duly elected and ought not to have been returned and that the
election is null and void.

They also prayed that Atiku be
declared as the validly elected winner of the election having polled the
highest number of votes as provided by the Electoral Act.

They
also prayed for an order of the tribunal to direct INEC to issue a
Certificate of Return to Atiku, having been validly elected by the
majority of votes cast on February 23.

In the alternative, the
petitioners prayed the tribunal to nullify the February 23 election and
order a fresh presidential election.

Buhari, APC’s defence

Opposing
the petition, Buhari and APC challenged its competence. Their main
contention was that Atiku did not have locus standi to even participate
in the presidential poll.

Buhari had described Atiku as a serial
loser, boasting that he had always defeated him in every electoral
contest that they took part in.

The President insisted that the
electorate always chose him ahead of Atiku in inter-party or intra-party
contests, citing the 2014 presidential primary election of the APC as
an example.

In addition, Buhari queried the powers of the
tribunal to nullify his victory at the poll, contending that the joint
petition Atiku and the PDP filed was incompetent as it was based on
conjectures.

He insisted that the reliefs the petitioners are seeking from the tribunal were “vague, nebulous and lacking in specificity.”

The
President equally argued that most of the issues and grounds of the
petition were not only “mutually exclusive,” but also outside the
jurisdiction of the tribunal.

He further contended that by virtue
of section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, only
the Federal High Court or High Court of a State has jurisdiction to
adjudicate on some of the issues, among which include the allegation
that he was bereft of the requisite educational qualification.

The
APC, in its own objection, alleged that Atiku is an alien, insisting
that he is not a Nigerian by birth and therefore was not qualified to
contest the February 23 presidential poll.

The party submitted
that Atiku is a Cameroonian and that he was born on November 25, 1946 in
Jada, Adamawa, in Northern Cameroon and is therefore a citizen of
Cameroon and not a Nigerian by birth.

Witnesses

At the end
of the hearing, the petitioners called 62 witnesses, the APC and INEC
did not call any witness, while Buhari called on seven witnesses.

Part
of the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses were that INEC used
electronic server to transmit results, that Buhari did not possess any
academic qualification and that the election was marred by
irregularities.

Petitioners’ written address

In
their final written address, the petitioners strongly alleged that
Buhari used fundamental falsehood to secure clearance from INEC to
participate in the election.

They also insisted that Buhari, as
candidate of the APC, lied on oath in his Form CF001 presented to INEC
before standing for the presidential election.

The petitioners
drew the attention of the Tribunal to a portion of Buhari’s INEC form,
where he claimed to have three different certificates; comprising
Primary School Leaving Certificate, WAEC certificate and Officers Cadet
certificate.

The also said it was shocking and surprising that
“no provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certificates,
no photocopy of certificates, and in fact, no electronic version of any
of the certificates was presented by Buhari throughout the hearing of
the petition to dispute the claim of the petitioners.

They added:
“More worrisome is the fact that Buhari’s own witness, Major General
Paul Tafa (rtd), who joined the Nigerian Army with him in 1962, told the
tribunal that they were never asked to submit their certificates to the
Nigerian Army Board as claimed by Buhari in his Form CF001.

“At
any rate the Secretary of the Nigerian Army Board, Olatunde Olaleye, had
in a statement, clarified that Buhari had no single certificate in his
personal file with the Nigerian Army.”

Atiku therefore urged the
tribunal to nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the
grounds that he lied on oath to deceive Nigerians and to secure unlawful
qualification for the election.

The former Vice President
informed the tribunal that Buhari’s claim that he can read and write in
English language as enough qualification is not tenable because ordinary
artisans on the streets of Nigeria can also do so, adding that a grave
allegation bordering on certificate was not addressed by Buhari as
required by law.

The PDP presidential candidate also faulted
INEC’s claim that it has no central server, adding that server is a
storage facility, including computer, where database of registered
voters, number of Permanent Voters’ Cards and election results amongst
others are stored for references.

He said the claim by INEC that
it has no device like server to store information, “is laughable, tragic
and a story for the dogs.” Atiku also debunked the claim of INEC that
collation and transmission of results electronically was prohibited by
law in Nigeria.

He asserted that by the Electoral Amendment Act
of March 26, 2015, the use of electronics became law and was officially
gazetted for the country, adding that section 9 of the Act, which made
provision for electronic collation of results replaced section 52, which
hitherto prohibited the use of electronics and which INEC erroneously
held that electronic results transmission is prohibited.

He
therefore urged the tribunal to uphold the petition and nullify the
participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that he was not
qualified to have stood for the election in addition to malpractices
that prompted his declaration as winner of the election.

INEC’s submission

Counsel
to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), in his submission, urged the tribunal to
dismiss the petition with substantial cost because the electoral body
conducted the election in total compliance with the Nigerian
Constitution and Electoral Act 2010.

Usman insisted that INEC did
not transmit election results electronically because doing so is
prohibited by law and that the commission did not call any witness
because there was no need to do so.

Buhari, APC’s submission

In
his defence, Buhari through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN),
argued that Atiku’s petition was liable to be dismissed because it is
lacking in evidence, merit and substance and that the petition is ill
advised and signified nothing.

Olanipekun cited section 131 of
the Constitution, which stipulated a minimum of secondary school
attendance to qualify for election in Nigeria, adding that Buhari cannot
go beyond that and that he does not need to tender or attach his
certificate before he can get qualification for any election.

He
submitted that there was nothing in law to persuade the tribunal to
nullify the February 23 presidential election as pleaded by Atiku and
urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost.

The
APC represented by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), in its own submission, said
the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the
nullification of the election as pleaded by the petitioners and urged
the tribunal to throw out the petition as long as its hand can do with
huge cost.

The judiciary ‘trial’

New Telegraph recalls
that the tribunal had earlier refused the petitioners’ application
seeking to inspect the INEC server. The tribunal premised its reason for
refusal on the ground that granting such will be pre-judicial. The
Supreme Court had also on appeal refused the application.

However
some stakeholders have opined that whatever the verdict of the tribunal
is, it will go a long way to shape and determine the nation’s electoral
jurisprudence, one way or the other.

According to them, the judgement will either renew or dampen the hope of the citizenry in the judiciary.

Pleading
with the tribunal to live up to its expectation of delivering a
judgement based on objectivity and fairness and which will make all
parties in the suit not to have a bias mind against the judiciary, the
stakeholders said: “Justice is for three parties namely – the
petitioners, respondent and the public.”

No doubt, the country’s
judiciary has been in the eye of the storm, however, its ability to
deliver a just and fair verdict will restore the hope of the common man.

Nigerians
have earlier commended the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice
Zainab Bulkachuwa, who was the former chairman of the tribunal for
recusing herself from the panel.

Justice Bulkachuwa’s action was
premised on an application filed by the petitioners at the pre-hearing
stage, wherein they (petitioners) alleged bias on the ground that
Bulkachuwa’s husband and son are card carrying members of the APC.

They
also alleged that Justice Bulkachuwa at the inaugural sitting of the
panel stated that “no matter how free and fair an election is in
Nigeria, there will always be a petition.”

Though the panel held
that the petitioners could not prove the ingredients of bias against its
chairman, Justice Bulkachuwa, however held that she would recuse
herself on personal ground.

This act, to a greater extent, earned
the panel a great deal of credibility and stakeholders saw it as a step
towards objectivity and fairness. This optimism was further
strengthened, when the incumbent chairman of the tribunal, Justice
Mohammed Garba, assured all parties that they will be treated equally.

Source:- Newtelegraphonline

About thecitimedia 7633 Articles
They say go hard or go home. Hey y'all, I'm Home.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply