The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja, on Wednesday, reserved its judgment on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the February 23, 2019 poll.
The five-man tribunal, led by Justice Mohammed Garba, announced this after listening to the final arguments of the parties to the case.
Justice Garba said the date for judgment would be communicated to the parties through their lawyers.
At the Wednesday’s hearing, the petitioners, through their lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), urged the court to uphold their case by either declaring them the winner of the election or order a fresh poll.
But the respondents – the Independent National Electoral Commission, represented by Yunus Usman (SAN), Buhari, whose legal team was led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and the All Progressives Congress represented by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) – urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.
Atiku and the PDP had filed their petition on March 18 while the inaugural sitting in the case started on May 8.
The pre-hearing session commenced on June 10 and ended on July 3.
The substantive trial, started on July 4 and ended on August 1.
During the trial the petitioners called 62 witnesses to prove their case.
While INEC and the APC called none, Buhari called seven in defence.
The tribunal, on August 1, directed parties to file and exchange their final addresses and fixed Wednesday (yesterday) for the adoption of the addresses.
Presenting the petitioners’ final arguments on Wednesday, their lawyer, Uzoukwu, insisted that Buhari was not qualified to contest the presidential election due to his inability to produce any certificate of his educational qualifications and for allegedly lying on oath about his certificates in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC as the APC’s candidate for the poll.
He said the case of Buhari’s non-qualification was based on Section 138(1) (e) of the Electoral Act to the effect that he falsely claimed that his certificates of educational qualification were with the Board of the Nigerian Army, but the respondents’ lawyers went to town proving that Buhari could speak English.
Uzoukwu said, “He (Buhari) said on oath, that his certificates were with the Army Board. That is how serious it is. We have led substantial evidence that this is false. Unfortunately, they did not do anything about this.
“They chose to say that he could not speak English. Of course, anybody, including those in primary school, can speak English.”
He wondered why Buhari chose to travel to Cambridge University to produce some assessment results instead of ordering the Army Board to produce the certificates he claimed was in their possession as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
He also pointed out alleged contradictions in the Cambridge documents, one of which he said credited eight subjects to Buhari and the other six.
Faulting INEC’s denial of the existence of a server in which they alleged the “true” results of the results of the poll which gave them victory were stored, he said the commission’s position was tantamount to denying having computers.
He said, “The server is nothing but a storage device which includes a computer. I can’t imagine this. Is INEC denying that they don’t have a computer?”
But urging the tribunal to dismiss the petition, INEC’s lawyer, Usman, insisted that “INEC conducted the presidential election on February 23, 2019, in total compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 and the petitioners can never dislodge that.”
He said the petitioners’ claim that the results of the election were transmitted electronically and stored in a server “is the greatest lie in this century.”
He added that in an election in which over 70 political parties participated, the petitioners’ acclaimed server results only showed votes allegedly polled by the APC and the PDP.
He said, “The Electoral Act itself totally prohibits the transmission of election results electronically. The Act and the manuals only provide for manual collation of results and that was what INEC did and that was what their witnesses admitted under cross-examination.”
He noted that the commission’s decision not to call witnesses did not amount to abandoning its case.
He called on the tribunal to dismiss the entire oral and documentary evidence adduced by the petitioners, after which there would be “nothing to sustain the petition.”
On his part, Buhari’s lawyer, Olanipekun, maintained that aside the hype enjoyed by the petitioners’ case, it was starved of evidence in court.
He said, “I want to say with due respect that among the few election petitions that I have handled, this is one petition that is pleading for evidence, praying to the high heavens for assistance and which assistance will never come.
“Apart from the hype being generated, there is nothing in law before your lordships that will make this honourable court to grant any of the prayers sought.”
He said contrary to the belief of the petitioners, a candidate such as his client was not required by the constitution to present a certificate of academic qualification.
“Let it be said that the constitution and case law do not expect any certificate to be tendered or attached. We have cited cases of this court and the constitution. They cannot cite any,” he said.
Citing the Court of Appeal’s decision on the case involving the PDP’s governorship candidate in the last governorship election in Osun State, Olanipekun said, “This court held that all he needs is to have education up to secondary school level and no law expects him to have a certificate.”
He also pointed out alleged contradictions in the petitioners’ case.
According to him, the petitioners, in their pleadings contained in a petition, conceded defeat in Katsina State, yet called four witnesses to prove otherwise during hearing.
On the existence of an INEC server or otherwise, he informed the tribunal of the Tuesday’s decision of the Supreme Court dismissing the petitioners’ appeal seeking permission to have access to the said server.
He said the petition was ill-advised, adding, “As Shakespeare said in ‘Macbeth,’ it is filled with sound and fury signifying nothing.”
The APC’s lawyer, Fagbemi, described as “sad” that the petitioners were only able to call 62 witnesses to challenge a presidential election that took place in 119,973 polling units cutting across 8,809 wards in 774 local government areas of the country.
He said of the 62 witnesses called by the petitioners, only five of them testified about the events that happened at the polling units.
Source: Punch News