The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Abuja on Wednesday, dismissed the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the victory and re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 23, 2019 presidential poll.
The petitioners asked the court to nullify the president’s election and order a fresh election on the ground that Buhari did not possess needed academic qualify to contest an election. They, among other allegations, said that the election was rigged by the ruling party – the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But a five-man panel led by Justice Mohammed Garba unanimously dismissed the claims for lacking in merit.
He held that the petitioners failed to provide proof to their allegations.
Contrary to Atiku’s claim, Garba said that the president attended the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina and obtained his West African School Certificate in 1961, making him eligible to contest an election.
“It is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to Form CF001 before the candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election,” said Justice Garba.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declare that Buhari polled 15,191,847 votes, while Atiku came second with 11,262,978 votes.
Atiku, in his petition submitted at the tribunal, claimed he garnered a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari, who, according to him, polled 16,741,430 votes.
He alleged that election results from the server of INEC showed that he defeated Buhari in the election.
But the judge ruled that there is no law in Nigeria that authorize electronic transmission of results or the transmission of result using card reader.
He said, “I have carefully examined exhibit 28 (INEC Manual for Election) tendered by the petitioners, I did not see where there is provision for electronic transmission of result of election.”
Describing the petitioners’ allegations as “a drop in the ocean”, Garba affirmed that “this petition is accordingly and hereby dismissed in its entirety.”
Atiku, PDP to appeal tribunal’s judgement
In apparent dissatisfaction with the ruling of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar have vowed to appeal the judgment at the apex court.
Mike Ozekhome, one of the lawyers representing the petitioners, said they would “challenge the ‘misevaluation’ of critical evidence in the judgement.”
“That we’re appealing to the Supreme Court is as certain as death,” Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said.
Kola Ologbondiyan, the party’s spokesman, also described the judgement as “provocative, barefaced subversion of justice and direct assault on the integrity of our nation’s justice system”.
The party faulted the court for upholding Buhari’s re-election despite “evidence of illegalities, manipulations, alterations, and subtraction of valid votes freely given to Atiku Abubakar by Nigerians.”
The petitioner said that it was “strange” that the court could dismiss its claim on the president’s academic qualification even when “all hard facts before it shows that he did not possess the claimed educational certificate.”
“The PDP finds as bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Muhammadu Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence,” the statement read.
Tribunal verdict, victory for Nigerians, says Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the ruling by the court, validating his re-election was a victory for Nigerians, who voted for him.
“Good conscience fears no evil report. I was unperturbed all along, because I knew Nigerians freely gave us the mandate. We are now vindicated,” Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, quoted Buhari to have said.
He said Buhari also extended a hand of fellowship to those dissatisfied with the outcome of the election and verdict of the court.
“It is time for the country to move forward as one cohesive body, putting behind us all bickering and potential distractions over an election in which Nigerians spoke clearly and resoundingly,” he was quoted to have said.
‘Apologise to Nigerians instead of going to apex court’
Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and a cabinet member of President Muhammadu Buhari, has asked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate Atiku Abubakar to apologise to Nigerians rather that appeal the judgement at the apex court.
He said the petitioners distracted the Nigerian government with their lawsuit.
“Don’t they realise this is a criminal act for which they are liable? Instead of threatening to head to the Supreme Court, driven more by ego than commonsense, they should be sorry for allowing desperation to overwhelm their sense of reasoning. Enough is enough,” the minister said.
He however advised the petitioners to join hands with the administration of Buhari in taking the country to the next level.
“Nigerians are tired of this orchestrated distraction, and will rather wish that the opposition, having lost at the polls and in court, will now join hands with the government to move Nigeria to the next level,” he said.