Buhari vs Atiku: Supreme Court gives reasons for dismissing Atiku, PDP’s case

•Insists Buhari was eminently qualified to contest Feb 23 presidential election

The Supreme Court on Friday, insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari was eminently qualified to contest the February 23 presidential election, saying that the issue of his qualification, which is the main objection in the appeal filed by the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party, was a Constitutional issue.

The Apex Court stated this in its explanation on the reasons its adduced for the October 30, 2019 judgment dismissing Atiku Abubakar and PDP’s appeal that challenged the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

In a unanimous judgment prepared by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad but read by Justice John Okoro, the Supreme Court said that the qualifications for a person seeking to contest the position of the president of Nigeria were clearly stated in Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

The Apex Court said that President Buhari was eminently qualified and met the requirements stipulated in Section 131 (d) of the Constitution that provides that an aspirant to the position of President should be educated to secondary school level or primary six and have served in the public service for ten years and attended training, with ability to read and write in English Language and any other qualifications acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The court said that Buhari’s Primary School certificate, certified copy of his Cambridge certificate, certified copy of his West African School Certificate (WASC), his group photograph of Katsina Secondary School and commendation letter from the Commandant of US War College for the then Major Muhammadu Buhari as well as his long service in public service, two years of which he served as military Head of State and four years as President had suffice for the qualification requirement.

According to the apex court, an aspirant who possessed any of the qualifications stipulated in the section suffice.

Justice CJN also held that neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Act require the respondent (Buhari) to attach certificate to INEC nomination form CF 001.

On the variation in the name between Mohamed Buhari as contained in the certificates and Muhammadu Buhari which he presently bears, the court agreed with the finding of the lower court that the names referred to same person and resolved issues one and two in favour of Buhari.

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On issue three, which deal with whether Buhari scored the lawful votes cast at the election, Justice CJN also agreed with the findings of the lower court that the fact obtained from “www.fact don’t lie.ng Website” can not be relied upon as it does not belong to INEC.

He said the lower court was right to have rejected the votes obtained from the website which formed the case of the appellants.”I am satisfied with the findings of the lower court which did not attach any probative value on the evidences of PW 59 and PW 60. This is issue is resolved in favour of the respondent”.

On issue four, that the election was not in compliance with the Electoral Act, the Supreme Court said that the appellants failed to call witnesses that actually witnessed the election

The appellants only called five polling agents as witnesses across the country with over 250,000 polling units.

The appellants also failed to tender the voter register. They tendered and dumped voluminous documents on court without calling the makers of the said documents to speak to the documents.

The CJN also found that the lower court was right not to have attach any probative value on the documents that was tendered from the bar, saying, It is not the duty of the justices to speculate or fish out what the documents were all about.

Justice Muhammadu further held that from the totality of the evidences and exhibits, the appellants could not prove the monumental allegations of corrupt practice. The issue was also resolved against the appellants.

On issue five, which questioned the lower court’s admission of Muhammadu Buhari’s photocopies of examination results as an exhibit, when the lawyer, through which they were tendered was not the maker, , the court said that the documents were properly admitted and witnesses testified on them.

It was observed that the legal team for Atiku and his party boycotted the court session.

Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN ) who led President Buhari defense team sought to know whether the Court sent them hearing notice and Justice John Okoro confirmed that the appellants were served with hearing notice on Wednesday.

He said the Court would go on ahead to give its reasons for the decision despite the absence of the appellants and their counsel and the court did that.

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