The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting at the Court of Appeal Abuja, on Wednesday reserved judgment on the petition challenging the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23, election.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its presidential candidate and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had dragged the All Progressives Congress, APC, its candidate Buhari, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC before the tribunal, claiming that the election was massively rigged in favour of Buhari.
Atiku is praying for cancellation of the election on the ground of irregularities, malpractices and non qualification of Buhari to contest the election.
On July 19, Atiku closed his case after calling 62 witnesses out of the 400, earlier penciled down by his legal team to give oral and documentary testimonies in a bid to prove that he won the 2019 presidential election.
Buhari’s lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun SAN announced a surprised closure of his case on August 1, after calling just 7 witnesses.
The INEC (1st respondent) and APC (3rd) did not call any witness.
At a resumed sitting on Wednesday, the Justice Garba Mohammed led 5-man tribunal, reserved judgment after counsel to all the parties in the petition had adopted their final written submissions.
Adopting his address, lead counsel to the petitioners, Dr Livy Uzoukwu SAN, submitted that Buhari used “fundamental falsehood” to secure clearance from the INEC to contest the presidential election.
Atiku said that Buhari “lied on oath” in his Form CF001, which he presented to INEC before participating in the election.
He referred the tribunal to a portion of Buhari’s INEC Form where he claimed to have three different certificates; namely, Primary School Leaving Certificate, WAEC certificate and Officers Cadet certificate.
Uzoukwu expressed surprise that, “No provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certificates, no photocopy of certificates and in fact 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 witness, Major General Paul Tafa (rtd), who enlisted into the Nigerian Army with him in 1962, testified that they were never asked to submit their certificates to the Nigerian Army Board as claimed by Buhari in his Form CF001.
“Secretary of the Nigerian Army Board, Olatunde Olaleye had in a statement clarified that Buhari had no single certificate in his personal file with the Nigerian Army” Uzoukwu stated.
He criticised the position of INEC that collation and transmission of results electronically were prohibited by law in Nigeria.
Uzoukwu said that by Electoral Amendment Act of March 26, 2015, the use of electronics became law and was officially gazetted for the country.
Atiku’s counsel further submitted 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 was prohibited.
He chided INEC for claiming that it has no device like server to store information, describing such position as “laughable, tragic and a story for the dogs”.
Consequently, Atiku’s counsel urged the tribunal to uphold his client’s petition just as he told the panel to invalidate Buhari’s participation in the election on the basis that he lied on oath to secure clearance from INEC.
On his part, Buhari’s counsel, Chief Olanipekun SAN, argued that Atiku’s petition was liable to be dismissed for want of evidence, merit and substance.
He cited section 131 of the Constitution which stipulated a minimum of secondary school attendance to qualify for election in Nigeria.
Buhari, according to his lawyer cannot go beyond that and does not need to tender or attach a certificate before he can get qualification for any election.
He insisted that there was nothing in law to persuade the tribunal to void the February 23 presidential election as argued by the petitioners.
Similarly, INEC’s counsel, Yunus Usman SAN, and Lateef Fagbemi SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost because the election was held in total compliance with the Constitution and Electoral Act 2010.
While Usman stated that INEC did not transmit election results electronically, the APC counsel noted that the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the nullification of the election.