Hamed Shobiye, Deputy Editor, Online
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Wednesday upheld the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 presidential election..
The tribunal dismissed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar’s petition for lack of merit.
Atiku had challenged the President’s re-election, citing election irregularities and non-compliance with the electoral act.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Buhari who represented the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the election ,after polling 15,191, 847 votes while the PDP candidate garnered 11, 262, 978 votes.
The five-man panel led by Justice Muhammad Garba ruled on several petitions relating to the presidential election..
Other members of the panel are – Justice Abdul Aboki (Court of Appeal, Abuja), Justice Joseph Ikyegh (Court of Appeal, Benin), Samuel Oseji (Court of Appeal, Lagos) and Justice Peter Ige ( Court of Appeal, Abuja).
In one of its rulings, the panel dismissed an application filed by INEC seeking the disqualification of Atiku’s lead counsel, Livy Ozoukwu. INEC had described Ozoukwu as a “lawyer unknown to the judiciary.”
The tribunal also agreed with the counsel to the President that it cannot adjudicate on the allegations that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo used unappropriated government’s funds to induce voters.
Justice Garba, who read the lead judgement, held that President Buhari ” is eminently qualified” to contest the 2019 presidential election.. Citing a previous Supreme Court judgment, he said: “Submission of educational certificate is not a requirement for qualification to contest election for governor under section 177 of the Constitution.
“It is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to his Form CF001 before a candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election.
“In effect, the 2nd defendant went through secondary education and then proceeded to military school. The military school is higher than secondary education. “”Thus our conclusion is that Buhari is not only qualified but eminently qualified to contest the presidential election.”
“The onus rests squarely on the petitioners to prove their assertion that the 2nd respondent does not possess the educational qualification to contest the election or that he submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification. This I have mentioned that the petitioners failed to prove. The petitioners cannot, therefore, rely on any failure in the case. “I come to the conclusion and I resolve issues 1 and 2 against the petitioners. “
“I have no doubt in my mind that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent does not possess the qualification to contest the election into the office of the President as stipulated in section 131, 137, 138 of the Constitution. I am also of the firm view that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification to contest the election into the Office of the President as prescribed in section 35(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.”
The tribunal also dismissed the PDP claim on central server and electronic transmission of results. The panel insisted that manual provided by INEC did not provide for electronic transmission of results.
Justice Garba added: “These claims cannot be countenanced because they lack worth. “Based on the available evidence, it is clear that the results were collated manually.
“The evidence and report of witness 59 of the petitioners (PW59), cannot be relied on that there was indeed INEC server or servers, as the case may be, into which the results of the presidential election were transmitted.
“Card reader machine has not replaced the voter register. A petitioner must rely on the card reader to prove non-accreditation or over voting.. ”
“I have carefully examined and 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..”
“The petitioners have therefore failed to prove that the second respondent (President Buhari) did not score a majority of lawful votes in the election.
” This matter (issue 3) is hereby resolved against the petitioners.”
The tribunal also quashed the allegation of malpractices during the election.
After resolving all the issues in favour of the respondents, the panel held that President was duly re-elected in the country’s last presidential election.