Nigeria: Presidential Election Tribunal - Atiku, Buhari Know Fate Today

Atiku and Buhari.
11 September 2019

The presidential election petition tribunal is set to deliver a verdict in the petition challenging the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The presidential election was held on February 23.

The petition challenging the election was filed on March 18 by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

Although three other petitions had been filed at the tribunal, asides that of the PDP, the party's petition proved the most contentious with 62 witnesses and thousands of documents submitted by the petitioners who appeared determined to present further evidences even after closing their case at the tribunal on July 19.

The PDP and Mr Atiku are asking the tribunal to invalidate the results initially declared by INEC where Mr Buhari was said to have polled 15,191,847 Votes to emerge winner of the elections.

The former ruling party accused the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), of manipulating what the petitioners described as the actual results of the election to amass illegal votes for Mr Buhari.

The PDP and its presidential candidate also accused INEC of storing the real results of the 2019 election in a central server.

According to the petition filed by the PDP, Mr Buhari did not win the highest number of votes. The PDP also alleged that they had investigated the actual results from the elections and that their findings proved that they won the elections with 18,356,732 votes instead of the 11,262,978 votes declared for them by INEC. The allegation regarding the server proved the most contentious of those brought by the PDP in the petition.

During the trial, PDP showed video clips of INEC resident electoral commissioner in Akwa-Ibom State, Mike Igini.

In the video, Mr Igini explained that the results would be collated at the various polling units into the form EC8A after which the collated results would then be transferred to the card reader and "transmitted to the central server."

"The results declared at the polling units will then be sent directly to the INEC central server," Mr Igini said in the video clip.

In a reaction to comments made by Mr Igini at the hearing, President Buhari's lawyer, Alex Izinyon, brought another video where the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said due to poor information network and possible cyber insecurity, election results would not be transmitted through a server.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

"Recall that we have had discussions with the NCC, telecommunication, we have blind spots, how do we transmit results in blind spots," Mr Yakubu said in the video.

The PDP also called several INEC staff as witnesses, all of whom admitted to sending results to a central server.

INEC declined to call a witness at the tribunal while Mr Buhari only presented seven witnesses. The APC also declined to call any witness but said that the PDP's witnesses only succeeded in proving the points already made by the APC.

According to the INEC lawyer, Yunus Usman, the claim by the PDP that results were transmitted to a central server negates the provisions of the constitution. The INEC lawyer said the law prohibits electronic transmission of results.

Mr Buhari through his lawyer, Wale Olanikpekun, also submitted that the PDP failed to prove its case in court. He described the efforts of the petitioners as an act of longing for something that would never be theirs. Mr Olanikpekun defended the arguments against Buhari's educational qualifications saying that the law did not require the president to present any certificate before partaking in the elections.

The lawyer representing the APC said the PDP failed woefully in the number of witnesses it presented. He described as unfortunate the fact that the PDP presented only 62 witnesses to defend an election that held in over 119, 000 polling units.

The respondents therefore asked the court to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.

The PDP's petition is premised on three main points noted by the electoral act as reasons for which an election petition could be brought. They include the following:

"That the person whose election is questioned was, at the time of the election not qualified to be elected.

"That the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral law under which the election was held.

"That the respondent was at the time of the election not duly elected by majority of lawful votes.

The PDP also accused the ruling APC of using government-owned security officers to disperse legible voters and disrupt elections in many of the polling units considered strongholds of the petitioners.

Also, the PDP accused the ruling APC of violating the constitutional requirements for the presentation of a candidate. According to the petitioners, Mr Buhari did not qualify to be presented for the elections on educational grounds.

The PDP alleged that the schools Mr Buhari claimed to have attended did not exist during those periods and that Mr Buhari's claim on an INEC form that his school certificate was with the military board was false and thus the president lied under oath.

Depending on the decision of the tribunal, one of the parties to this petition is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court to review the decision reached today.

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