Nigeria: Presidential Tribunal - You Lack Credentials to Be President, Atiku Tackles Buhari

Photo: Vanguard
Abubakar Atiku, 2019 presidential candidate for PDP and President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC
16 August 2019

Abuja — Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the last election, Atiku Abubakar, has taken a fresh wipe at President Muhammadu Buhari, saying he should be sacked by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal for failing to support his claimed proficiency in English language with any educational qualification.

In a final written address he filed before the Justice Mohammed Garba-led panel, a copy of which was sighted by Vanguard, last night, Atiku, who is challenging the outcome of the February 23 presidential election, said he was surprised that President Buhari produced witnesses to establish that he could speak English language.

Atiku, in the document he filed through his team of lawyers led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, maintained that President Buhari failed to defend the allegation that he lied about educational qualifications and credentials he claimed in the Form CF001 he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the purpose of the presidential election.

He argued that though Buhari made "a bane and baseless allegation" that his petition was based on assumptions, speculations and conjectures, he (Buhari) failed to lead any evidence to demonstrate why the case should be dismissed as unmeritorious.

"It is also rather instructive that the 2nd Respondent who called 7 witnesses, RW1 -RW7, abruptly closed his case in the vainglorious effort to stop the continuous and grave but irredeemable damage to his case by his witnesses under cross examination. That was like bolting the stable after the horse had clearly galloped out of it".

Atiku contended that Buhari misconceived the import and purport of the allegation that he was bereft of the basic educational qualifications, when he produced witnesses to testify that he could speak English language.

Therefore, the petitioner and his party distilled out five principal issues they urged the tribunal to determine.

According to them, "he following issues call for determination in this petition, namely: Whether the 2nd Respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election. Whether the 2nd Respondent submitted to the 1st Respondent (INEC) affidavit containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election.

"Whether from the pleadings and evidence led, it was established that the 2nd Respondent was duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election.

"Whether the Presidential Election conducted by the 1st Respondent on 23rd February 2019 was invalid by reason of corrupt practices.

"Whether the Presidential Election conducted by the 1st Respondent on 23rd February 2019 was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the Electoral Guidelines 2019 and Manuals issued for the conduct of the elections".

The petitioners insisted that Buhari did not possess the certificates relating to qualifications he claimed in the Form CF001 he submitted to INEC.

"The 2nd Respondent had listed his educational credentials in proof of his qualification to contest the election in the said Form, which he then submitted to the 1st Respondent. The qualifications claimed by the 2nd Respondent were (a) First School Leaving Certificate (b) West African School Certificate (WASC); and (c )Officer Cadet (whatever that means). None of the alleged certificates was attached to Exhibit P1.

"The Petitioners submit that the 2nd Respondent was not qualified to contest the presidential election because the 2nd Respondent failed to satisfy the mandatory requirements of section 131(d) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian 1999, which provides that; "A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the president if; (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.

"We therefore submit that to be qualified, the 2nd Respondent must produce his Primary School Certificate or WASC or 'Officer Cadet' since those were the qualifications he claimed in his Form CF001.

"The relevant question now is whether the 2nd Respondent has shown in this court that he was qualified to contest the said election based on his claim? We respectfully submit that he has not done so. Rather, it is the petitioners that have proved that he was not qualified."

Certificates with the Nigerian Army

Atiku and PDP argued that Buhari failed to prove that his certificates were with the Nigerian Army, stressing that one of his witnesses, "told the court firmly and unequivocally that the Army did not collect the certificates of Military officers".

They argued that picture of Buhari with his classmates, which was tendered before the tribunal, was irrelevant, adding that, "A comparison of the purported Cambridge Assessment International Education Certifying Statement of the purported West African Examinations Council certificate and the Certified True Copy of the purported confidential result sheet of the University of Cambridge West Africa School Certificate of 1961 for the Provincial Secondary School Katsina reveals many discrepancies in the supposed results.

"One listed eight subjects that the candidate therein mentioned as one 'Mohamed Buhari' allegedly sat for, the other, six subjects. Both documents are therefore unreliable as both cannot be correct. The contradiction musty count against the 2nd respondent".

"The 2nd Respondent never explained why it was easier to go all the way to Cambridge in the United Kingdom to obtain a bogus document that his own witnesses saw was not a certificate, instead of just driving down the street of Abuja to the Army Headquarters or placing a phone call to the Secretary of the Military Board in Abuja to hurry over with his certificate or certificates."

INEC's refusal to defend petition

They further argued that INEC's refusal to defend the petition placed the burden of proof on Buhari.

On the election result, the petitioners urged the tribunal to consider the proof of evidence that contained record of votes in the servers that were inputted through the Smart Crad Reader which they claimed gave them victory against President Buhari.

They urged the tribunal to evaluate allegations of manipulation of results and electoral malpractices in 11 focal states comprising of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Yobe and Zamfara.

They maintained that when votes credited to the parties on account of various errors are deducted from the results that were declared by INEC, PDP will have a total of 9, 426, 082 votes, while APC will have a total of 9, 203,750 votes.

They claimed that the margin of lead for the PDP would be a total of 22, 332 votes.

"The pith and substance of our submission is that the Petitioners have established Grounds B and C of their petition. A fortriori, we urge the Honorable court to grant Alternative Relief (f) at Page 138 Vol.1 of the petition by nullifying the election of the 2nd Respondent and in consequence ordering a fresh election to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria", the petitioners added.

The Justice Graba-led panel had earlier fixed August 21 for all the parties to the petition to adopt their final briefs of argument.

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