© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
VERDICT: After 177 days of legal fireworks, tribunal throws out Atiku’s case
THE Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Wednesday dismissed the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar challenging the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
This is coming 177 days after the PDP and its candidate in the February 23 election submitted their complaint before the Tribunal asking for the cancellation of the result of the election that produced president Buhari.
The Tribunal started hearing on the matter on March 18 in a case where president Buhari and his party gathered 18 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) as defence counsel led by Wole Olanipekun, a former president of Nigeria Bar Association.
The PDP and Atiku had in March filed a petition signed by 31 lawyers, 19 of which were Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) before the Tribunal challenging the outcome of the February 23 election,
However, a five-man tribunal, led by Justice Mohammed Garba, in the lead judgement, on Wednesday said the petitioner did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, dismissing the petition and urged the parties to bear their respective costs.
Other members of the panel were Justices Abdul Aboki, Joseph Ikyegh, Samuel Oseji, and Peter Ige.
In his ruling, Mohammed affirmed the decision of the panel who unanimously resolved all the five issues raised in the case against the respondents.
“In the final result, I have come to the conclusion, which is inevitable and unavoidable, that the petitioners have not discharged the burden of proof required of any of the grounds of the petition in paragraph 15 of the petition,” he said.
The tribunal agreed that the petitioners presented electoral materials, including result sheets used for the election to the tribunal without providing evidence of any of their 62 witnesses to the documents in their bid to prove the allegations in their petition.
“This petition is accordingly, and hereby dismissed in its entirety,” Mohammed concluded.
The five-man panel also dismissed the petitioner’s request for disqualification of President Buhari election for not possessing the required educational qualifications.
This was as it also faulted the documents tendered by the petitioners to prove the allegations over-voting and claim that the election results were transmitted electronically by card readers.
The nine-hour judgment which started around 9:30 a.m on Wednesday ended at 5:58 p.m. when the other members of the panel had delivered their supporting opinions.
The road from trial to final judgement
The petitioners in contesting the February 23 presidential election prayed the tribunal to order a re-run in 11 states claiming the elections we marred by irregularities, wrongful recording of results among other infractions.
The PDP and Atiku were asking the tribunal to invalidate the results initially announced by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declaring Buhari, winner of the 2019 presidential elections having polled a total of 15,191,847 votes.
In the petition filed by the PDP, it stated that Buhari did not win the highest number of votes in the elections. The opposition party argued that its investigations into the actual results from the elections showed that it’s candidate won the elections with 18,356,732 votes instead of the 11,262,978 votes declared for him by INEC.
The allegation regarding the server also proved to be a contentious issue brought by the PDP and its presidential candidate in the petition as they accused INEC of storing the real results of the 2019 election in a central server.
The PDP also called several INEC staff as witnesses, all of whom admitted to sending results to a central server.
However, INEC declined to call a witness at the tribunal while president Buhari only presented seven witnesses. The APC also declined to call any witness stating that PDP’s witnesses were in support of the points raised by the APC.
INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman, said the claim by the PDP that results were transmitted to a central server stands against the provisions of the constitution. The INEC’s lawyer said the law prohibits electronic transmission of results.
The PDP argued that president Buhari did not meet the minimum educational requirements for emerging as a candidate for the election.
It equally alleged that the schools Buhari claimed to have attended did not exist during those periods and that his claim on an INEC form that his school certificate was with the military board was false and thus the president lied under oath.
The lawyer representing the APC said the PDP failed woefully in the number of witnesses it presented. He described as unfortunate the fact that the PDP presented only 62 witnesses to defend an election that held in over 119, 000 polling units.