Legal battle on the outcome of the 2019 presidential election formally began yesterday at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, calling their witnesses.
The election held on February 23, 2019 was won by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Most of the documents, including the results of the election declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were accepted as exhibits by the tribunal.
Buhari, however, objected to the admission of his Form CF001 which contained his personal data that he submitted to INEC for the election.
The president’s action was announced by his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who promised to give reasons for his position during the address stage.
Atiku first tendered the final result of the election signed by Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, which the tribunal admitted as exhibit.
The petitioners also presented documents containing the total number of voters in the INEC register and the number of collected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for the election.
Atiku’s lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), tendered six newspapers’ publications and 10 press statements issued by INEC in respect of the election.
Uzoukwu tendered the document before Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-man panel as part of his client’s moves to prove allegations of election malpractice leveled against the conduct of the election.
The PDP and Atiku called witnesses to testify for them in their allegations of election malpractices, corruption, irregularities and violence during the conduct of election.
The first witness, Buba Galadima, who adopted his statement made on oath, said under cross examination by Buhari’s counsel that he supported the president in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 presidential elections but parted ways with him due to his alleged unfulfilled promises.
Galadima said that he supported Atiku in the 2019 election because he was a better candidate who is educated, God-fearing and capable of providing good governance for the country.
The witness, however, denied parting ways with Buhari because he was denied privileges but insisted that the president failed to protect life and property of the citizens and did not allow the rule of law to prevail.
Also under cross examination by the APC counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, Galadima told the tribunal that he was not a member of the PDP and that his party – Reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC) had a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Atiku and PDP on how to make life bearable for Nigerians, ensure security of life and property, and allow the rule of law to stand.
In his testimony, Galadima said that he voted in his polling unit and thereafter went to monitor the election across the country from the PDP Situation Room in Abuja.
He said that the election was marred by malpractices to favour the second respondent.
The second witness, Ijeoma Peter Obi, who claimed to be an Information Communications and Technology (ICT) expert, admitted transmitting results from polling units to the INEC server in his capacity as Registration Area Technician who was trained and shortlisted by the commission for the election.
When crossed examined, Obi failed to substantiate his claims as he could not give the code number used in sending the results to the acclaimed server.
Another witness, Adejuwitan Ebenezar Olalekan, also admitted transmitting the election results to INEC server.
Olalekan told the tribunal that INEC server was automatic and embedded in the smart card reader for the purposes of transmitting the results.
He claimed that he personally transmitted the results to INEC server through a code provided by the electoral umpire, insisting that the server was connected to the smart card reader.
Under cross examination by Olanipekun, the witness said that he did not know Buhari as the second respondent in Atiku’s petition.
Also under cross examination by Fagbemi, the witness admitted not serving as presiding officer for INEC but was only shortlisted by the electoral body.
Olalekan also failed to explain how the results were transmitted to the commission’s server.
Another set of result sheets from Zamfara and Kano States totaling 6,806 were admitted as additional evidence from the petitioners.
The petitioners had on July 4 tendered a total of 31,371 documents comprising election results sheets from wards, polling units and local government areas from 10 states. The states were Niger, Yobe, Katsina, Kebbi, Borno, Jigawa, Gombe, Bauchi, and Kaduna.
A/Court Reserves Judgement In Suit Against PMB’s Academic Qualification
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has reserved judgment in the appeal challenging the academic qualification submitted by Buhari to INEC for the presidential election.
The three-member panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice Atinuke Akomolafe-Wilson, took the decision after listening to the arguments of the counsel to parties in the suit.
During the hearing of the appeal yesterday, counsel to the appellant, Ukpai Ukairo, insisted that Buhari was not educationally qualified to have stood for the poll on the grounds that the required certificates were not attached to his Form CF001 in INEC custody.
The lawyer denied the claim that the suit was statute barred, insisting that the case was instituted on November 5, 2018 within the 14 days allowed by law. He further said the cause of action started with the announcement and publication by INEC of the successful candidates for the 2019 general elections on October 25, 2018.
Ukairo, therefore, urged the Court of Appeal to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the Federal High Court for miscarriage of justice.
He also asked the court to nullify Buhari’s participation in the presidential election because he was not educationally qualified for the poll at the time he did.
But lawyers to the 1st and 2nd respondents (Buhari and APC) urged the court to dismiss the appeal for being incompetent and lacking merit.
Buhari’s counsel, Abdullahi Abubakar, told the Appeal Court that the case was statute barred having not been filed within the mandatory period.
Abubakar also urged the court to uphold the decision of the Federal High Court to the effect that the suit was not filed within the time limit.
APC counsel, Babatunde Ogala, asked the court to dismiss the appeal, while counsel to INEC, Onyeri Anthony, said the commission was neutral and would abide by the decision of the court.
The appellants had approached the court to nullify and set aside the judgment of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court which declined to hear their suit.
In their appeal, they asked the court to reverse the judgment of Justice Ahmed Mohammed on the ground that the processes filed by Buhari which were used to strike out the case were not competent.
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