Abuja – The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting at the Court of Appeal Abuja Division, on Wednesday upheld the election of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the 2019 presidential election.
In a judgment that started by 9:30 am and ended by 6:05 pm, Chairman of the PEPT, Justice Mohammed Garba, dismissed the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar challenging the declaration of Buhari as the winner of the election.
Justice Garba said that the petitioners failed to prove any ground of their petition.
“I have come to an inevitable and unavoidable conclusion that the petitioners failed to discharge the onus of the burden of proof placed on them.
Consequently, the petition is dismissed in its entirety ” Justice Garba held.
Other members of the PEPT include Justices Abdul Aboki, Peter Ige, Joseph Ikyegh, and Samuel Oseji.
In the judgment, the tribunal held the Buhari (2nd respondent) was not only highly qualified but eminently qualified to contest the February 23, 2019, presidential election”.
The tribunal noted that the curriculum vitae of Buhari as submitted by the petitioners “contains impressive credentials to enable him to contest the presidential election, even if it was primary school certificate he used in joining the Nigerian Army in 1961.
Justice Garba stated that the statement by the Nigerian Army entitled “Army Speaks On Buhari’s Certificate” concerning Buhari’s certificate did not support Atiku’s petition.
The tribunal held that the statement by the then Army spokesman, Major General Olajide Olaniyi apparently showed that Buhari obtained secondary school certificate in 1961, and obtained credit pass in English language, Geography, History, Health science, and Hausa language.
According to Justice Garba, “If indeed the 2nd respondent did not possess this WASC record, where did the Nigerian Army get the result of the credit passes?
Going by provisions of sections 131, 137 and 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that border on educational qualifications of a candidate, the tribunal found out that Buhari was duly qualified to run for the presidency.
The Tribunal noted that a lot of hues and cries have been made in respect of the 2nd respondent’s educational qualification, but insisted that the petitioner’s failure to prove their claim.
Consequently, the panel discountenanced all depositions made by the petitioners in respect of Buhari’s certificate issue.
After painstakingly and critically evaluating the petitioner’s issues one and two that border on Buhari’s educational qualification, the tribunal was of the opinion that the issues were of no moment.
According to the tribunal, “The method of collation and transmission according to the electoral act is manual at every level.
“There is no provision in the exhibits that the results were transmitted electronically in the 2019 election.
“The petitioner has failed to establish the claim of the electronic transmission of results at all levels of the election” the tribunal held.
“Issues one and two of the petitioners are hereby resolved against them” the tribunal held.
On the findings of the tribunal Chairman in respect of the INEC’S website, he stated that “On result on an INEC website as presented by the petitioner, It is my view that whatever results you claim to have gotten belong to a whistleblower.
“It is possible to use the scientific method to alter data on a website.
“Therefore the petitioner relied on information from a third party and the evidence, therefore, is unreliable and unverifiable because it amounts to hearsay.
“Hearsay evidence has no probative value and therefore is inadmissible in law,” Justice Garba said.
He stated further that the adduced by PW 3,4,16,17,36 and 59 cannot be relied upon as they lack probative value.
Similarly, Justice Mohammed Garba ruled that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, could not prove his allegation of widespread electoral malpractices in the 11 focal states listed in his petition.
The tribunal held that the petitioner did not disclose the number of votes awarded to President Muhammadu Buhari, insisting that it is a court of law and cannot allocate figures to the petitioners when they failed to do so to substantiate their allegations.
In addition, the tribunal held that Atiku failed woefully to prove that Buhari did not score the majority of the votes, adding that the petitioner’s star witness, Osita Chidoka, the national collation officer of Atiku, admitted while giving evidence that he did not visit any of the ward, local and state polling units.
Earlier, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal had dismissed a preliminary objection by the Independent National Electoral Commission, seeking the striking out of the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the declaration of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the February 23, presidential election.
INEC’s motion dated May 15, was filed by its counsel, Yunus Usman SAN.
Specifically, INEC contended that the non-joining of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a party in the petition rendered the case incompetent and therefore liable to be dismissed.
But in a lead judgment, Chairman of the 5-man PEPT, Justice Mohammed Garba held that the non-joinder of Osinbajo could not render the petition incompetent.
Justice Garba stated that the VP is only an interested party and not a necessary party because he was chosen by the 2nd respondent, President Buhari and the APC (3rd respondent) as a running mate.
In a unanimous ruling, the tribunal held that “the motion of the 1st respondent is not well-grounded in law, it lacks merit and is hereby refused”.
Also, the PEPT dismissed an application by INEC seeking the disqualification Atiku’s counsel, Dr. Livinus Uzoukwu SAN.
INEC’S counsel, Ustaz Yunus Usman SAN, had argued that processes endorsed by Uzoukwu were invalid because he was not a lawyer.
However, Chairman of the PEPT, Justice Mohammed Garba reasoned that the March 18, list of counsel and list of witnesses and other processes filed before the tribunal are valid and competently signed by a legal practitioner whose name is on the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s roll of legal practitioners.
The tribunal noted that the petitioner’s counsel in his counter-affidavit proved beyond doubt that Uzoukwu is a legal practitioner.
Justice Garba said that ” I have noted the processes, it is glaring that there is a seal of the Nigerian Bar Association with the name of Dr. Levi Uzoukwu SAN on them.
The petitioner stated that no other person that was called to Bar in 1982, bears the name Levinus Ifeanyichukwu Uzoukwu.
It was also averred by Atiku that Uzoukwu and the INEC’S counsel, Yunus Usman were called together to the inner bar in 1999.
However, the tribunal noted that INEC’S lawyer did not controvert the averments in the petitioner’s counter-affidavit.
“Nothing was said of the motion by the 1st respondent in its reply on points of law filed on May 6” the tribunal held.
Meanwhile, the tribunal struck out the paragraphs wherein the petitioners alleged that there was an arrest, harassment, intimidation etc by the Nigerian Police.
Justice Garba said it would be partial to decide the issue without hearing from those accused of the electoral violence.
Atiku and PDP had on March 18 dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the tribunal, wherein they are challenging the declaration of Buhari as the winner of the presidential election.
The petitioners had claimed massive rigging of the poll in favour of Buhari and therefore prayed for cancellation of the election, citing irregularities, malpractices and non-qualification of Buhari to contest the election.
In a bid to establish his petition, Atiku during the hearing opened his case on July 1, called 62 witnesses, tendered several documents and video clips before the tribunal. He closes his case on July 19.
On his part, Buhari opened his defense on July 30 and called 7 witnesses. He tendered documents to prove that he genuinely defeated Atiku at the poll, before closing his case on August 12.
Surprisingly, the INEC (1st respondent) and APC (3rd respondent) did not call any witness but elected to align with the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses to support their defense.
Buhari was declared the winner of the election with 15,191,847 votes, while Abubakar, his closest challenger, polled 11,262,978 votes according to the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission on February 23.
Atiku and PDP had equally alleged that Buhari used “fundamental falsehood” to secure clearance from INEC to participate in the poll.
Atiku in his final address insisted that Buhari, as the candidate of APC lied on oath in his form CF001 presented to INEC before standing for the presidential election.
In the final address presented on his behalf by his lead counsel, Dr. Levy Uzuokwu SAN, Atiku drew the attention of the Tribunal to a portion of his 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 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 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.
However, INEC represented by Yunus Usman SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with a substantial cost because the electoral body conducted the election in total compliance with the Nigerian constitution and Electoral Act 2010 and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
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 and that the petition is ill-advised and signified nothing.
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 attached 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 Olasunkanmi 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 a huge cost.
Fagbemi told the tribunal that the petitioners called 62 witnesses only in a failed attempt to prove their allegations concerning 119,793 pulling units, 8, 809 wards and 774 local government areas and local area councils being challenged by the petitioners.
He added that the witnesses were from 11 states only including the FCT. Fagbemi further argued that the allegations of non-accreditation, invalid votes, deliberate depletion of petitioners vote, anomalies, over-voting, wrongful collation of results in favour of Buhari and APC as well as corrupt practices have been effectively denied by the two respondents as being unfounded and non-existent.
Fagbemi contended that the failure to call witnesses across the states of the federation by the petitioners to establish their allegations as envisaged by law is fatal to the petition and made it liable for dismissal by the tribunal.
APC stalwarts who were court to witness the judgment include Abba Kyari Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari; APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomole; the AGF and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami SAN; Minister of State, Niger Delta Festus Keyamo SAN; Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State; Minister of Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige; Governor Atiku Kebbi of Kebbi state; Minister of Power and Works Raji Fashola SAN.
Others include Ali Modu Sheriff former Borno state Governor; Nuhu Ribadu; the Director General of Boice of Nigeria Osita Okechukwu etc.
On the side of PDP, notable chieftains of the party sighted were its National Chairman Uche Secondus; Yahaya Abubakar who represented Atiku Abubakar; and Raymond Dokpesi.
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