Atiku vs Buhari: Tribunal reserves judgment in presidential poll petition

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has reserved judgment in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the February 23 general election.

Chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Mohammed Garba, said the judgment date would be communicated to all parties.

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Buhari and APC have asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition by the PDP and Atiku.

The parties: INEC and Buhari, made the submissions while making their written addresses yesterday following which the tribunal reserved judgment on the matter.

In his submission, INEC’s lead Counsel, Yunus Ustaz Usman (SAN), said the commission conducted the February 23, election in “total compliance with the Electoral Act and the petitioners can never dislodge that.”

Usman, therefore, asked the panel “to dismiss the petition which was meant to test the river with both legs.”

Also, lead Counsel to Buhari, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking in evidence, adding that Section 131 of the Nigerian Constitution did not demand certificates to be attached to the documents.

Olanipekun said, “And apart from the hype being generated, there is nothing in law that would make your lordships to grant any of the reliefs being sought.”

Citing the case of Adeleke vs Adekunle at the Court of Appeal, Olanipekun said the court’s position was that all he (Buhari) needed to do was to have education up to secondary school level.

The lawyer said, “They are talking about server, where is that server? That is a $2m question.”

Counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said the PDP and Atiku, who alleged electoral irregularities in 119,973 polling units in 8,809 wards in 774 local government areas, called only 62 witnesses out of which only five gave evidence from the polling units.

Fagbemi said, “I feel sad that this matter has been starved with evidence because what we heard from when it was filed and when going on was different from what actually took place.”

However, lead Counsel to the PDP and Atiku, Levy Uzoukwu (SAN), asked the tribunal to hold that Section 138(1) of the Electoral Act, which says any candidate who submits false information, would nullify their candidacy.

Uzoukwu added that by the judgement of the Supreme Court in Abdulrauf Moddibbo vs Mustapha Usman SC/790/2019 delivered on July 30, qualifications for election were not a pre-election matter.

He said Buhari in his Form CF001submitted to INEC listed three certificates: First School Leaving, WAEC and Cadet Certificate from the military school, but failed to attach them to the form.

The lawyer said, “His classmates responded that they never submitted any certificate to the military contrary to the claim of the second respondent (Buhari).”

He added that it was “tragic” and “laughable” for INEC to say there was no server for the 2019 general elections, stressing that electronic transmission was amended in the 2015 Electoral Act.

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