The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) on Wednesday reserved judgment in the petition filed by the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the February 23, 2019, presidential election.
The five-member panel of justices of the Tribunal, headed by Justice Mohammed Garba reserved the date for judgment after all the parties in the petition adopted their final written addresses.
According to the Tribunal, judgment will be delivered on a date that will be communicated to parties in the matter.
Earlier, while adopting the final written addresses of the petitioners, their lead counsel, Dr. Livy Nzoukwu (SAN) told the Tribunal that Buhari, the second respondent in their petition used falsehood to secure clearance from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to participate in the election.
Atiku insisted that Buhari, as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lied on oath in his form CF001 presented to INEC before standing for the presidential election.
The PDP presidential candidate drew the attention of the Tribunal to a portion of Buhari’s INEC form where he claimed to have three different certificates; comprising Primary School leaving certificate, WAEC certificate and Officers Cadet certificate.
The petitioners said it was shocking and surprising that, “No Provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certificates, no photocopy of certificates, no electronic version of any of the certificates was presented by Buhari throughout the hearing of the petition to dispute the claim of the petitioners.
“More worrisome is the fact that Buhari’s own witness, Major General Paul Tafa (rtd), who joined the Nigerian Army with him in 1962 told the Tribunal that they were never asked to submit their certificates to the Nigerian Army Board as claimed by Buhari in his form CF001”.
Nzoukwu said Buhari, as the Commander In Chief could not direct the Secretary of the Nigerian Army Board to produce the certificate which he claimed are in the custody of the Army, because there was nothing like that.
The former Vice President, through his counsel, informed the tribunal that the claim of Buhari that he can read and write in English language as enough qualification for him was of no moment because ordinary artisans on the streets of Nigeria can also do so, adding that a grave allegation bordering on certificate was not addressed by Buhari as required by law.
The PDP presidential candidate also faulted the claim of INEC that it has no central server, adding that server is a storage facility, including computer where the database of registered voters, number of permanent voter card and election results, amongst others are stored for references.
He said the claim by INEC that it has no device like a server to store information, “As laughable, tragic and a story for the dogs”.
Atiku’s lawyer in the final address debunked the claim of INEC that collation and transmission of results electronically was prohibited by law in Nigeria and asserted that by Electoral Amendment Act of March 26, 2015, the use of electronics became law and was officially gazetted for the country, adding that section 9 of the Act which made provision for electronic collation of results replaced section 52 which hitherto prohibited the use of electronics and which INEC erroneously held that electronic results transmission is prohibited.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to uphold the petition and nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that he was not qualified to have stood for the election, in addition to malpractices that prompted his declaration as winner of the election.
However, INEC represented by Yunus Usman (SAN) urged the tribunal to dismiss the petitioners’ petition against Buhari’s election with a substantial cost because the electoral body conducted the election in total compliance with the Nigerian constitution and the Electoral Act 2010.
Usman insisted that INEC did not transmit election results electronically because doing so is prohibited by law and that the Commission did not call any witnesses because there was no need to do so.
In his defence, President Buhari, through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), argued that Atiku’s petition was liable to be dismissed because it is lacking in evidence, merit and substance.
Olanipekun cited section 131 of the Constitution which stipulated a minimum of secondary school attendance to qualify for election in Nigeria, adding that Buhari cannot go beyond that and that he does not need to tender or attach certificate before he can get qualification for any election.
He averred that there was nothing in law to persuade the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election as pleaded by Atiku and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost.
The APC, represented by Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), in his own submission, said the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the nullification of the election as pleaded by the petitioners and urged the tribunal to throw out the petition as long as its hand can do with huge cost.
However, the Tribunal Chairman after taken submissions from all parties announced that judgment in the petition has been reserved and that the date for its delivery would be communicated to parties.
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