Abuja — Former vice president and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar has said that the imposition of travel ban on some categories of Nigerians by the United States has validated his claims that the February and March elections were marred by irregularities.
This is coming as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal wednesday dismissed the petition of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The dismissal was sequel to a formal application for withdrawal by the candidate of the PDM in the last presidential election, Aminchi Habu.
Atiku's media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, said in a statement yesterday that "after the conduct of the February 23, 2019 Nigerian presidential elections, we maintained that the polls were rigged, not credible and that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar won the elections and that his mandate was stolen.
"In the aftermath of the daylight robbery that occurred on election day, the regime of General Muhammadu Buhari and its allies went into a propaganda overdrive to deny the obvious. However, it is a truism that no matter how far and fast falsehood, or in this case, rigging, has traveled, it must eventually be overtaken by truth".
The statement added that it seems that day has come as "after many months of living in denial, the Buhari's regime is now faced with the truth in the form of a US visa ban on politicians who undermined Nigeria's democracy".
According to Atiku, the US "statement is a vindication of our position that the 2019 elections were "undermined" by the actions of state actors and institutions.
"We also wish to thank the United States of America for standing with the Nigerian people against those whose desire it is to truncate our democracy.
"Finally, we urge the Nigerian people not to despair. There is hope on the horizon. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The myriad of security, economic and social challenges Nigeria currently faces, which has resulted in our nation becoming the world headquarters for extreme poverty will, God willing, soon be over, with the prospect of purposeful and result oriented leadership", Atiku explained.
In announcing the visa ban, the US Department of State had clarified that the actions were specific to certain individuals and not directed at the Nigerian people or the newly elected government.
"This decision reflects the Department of State's commitment to working with the Nigerian government to realise its expressed commitment to end corruption and strengthen democracy, accountability, and respect for human rights," the statement had said.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal yesterday dismissed the petition of the PDM against the election of President Buhari, following a formal application for withdrawal by the candidate of the PDM in the last presidential election, Aminchi Habu.
The tribunal had last week adjourned to yesterday, July 24, for commencement of hearing in the PDM's petition after dismissing a similar application filed and argued last week by the PDM's National Chairman, Frank Igwebuike.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba had held, among other grounds, in dismissing the application for withdrawal by the party's chairman that the PDM being a joint petitioner cannot withdraw from the matter as the other petitioner, the presidential candidate was sponsored by the party in the election.
However, a new twist emerged when the matter was called yesterday, with counsel to the presidential candidate, Aliu Lemu, informing the tribunal of an application filed on July 23, seeking the withdrawal of their petition against the election of President Buhari.
Lemu said the application was brought under Paragraphs 29 and 47(1) and (20 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010.
He asked for the court's permission that the application be heard outside the pre-hearing session, "and leave to withdraw petition No: CA/PEPC/04/2019 outside of the pre-hearing session."
The PDM's lawyer told the panel that the petitioners agreed to withdraw the petition having found an alternative way of addressing the complaints they raised in their petition.
The petitioners in addition cited the need to prevent Buhari from incurring expenses to defend himself in the petition and also the need to make him concentrate on the act of governance as other reasons for withdrawing the petition Respondents in the matter, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Buhari, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) however did not oppose the withdrawal of the petition
Consequently, Justice Garba, granted the application and dismissed the petition.
"We find it expedient to grant this application as prayed. It is granted. And leave is granted to the petitioners to withdraw this petition from the court", Justice Garba held.
Habu and his party, PDM had in their petition number CA/PEPT/ 04/2019 filed on March 19, 2019 asked the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential poll that returned Buhari for a second term on grounds that they were excluded from participating in the election.
They specifically alleged that the PDM's logo was not included in the Ballot Paper used for the presidential election as required by law despite their lawful nomination and clearance by the electoral body to participate in the poll.
The PDM until their withdrawal Wednesday were among the three remaining petitioners challenging the declaration of Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential poll by INEC.