Nigeria: Supreme Court Dismisses Atiku, PDP's Appeal

Atiku and Buhari.
30 October 2019

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the appeal by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The seven-member panel led by Justice Tanko Mohammed held that having gone through all the documents and exhibits two weeks ago, the panel discovered that the appeal lacks merit.

"We have examined the submissions of parties in this matter and the exhibit adduced and we have come to a conclusion that this appeal lacks merit, appeal is hereby dismissed.

"A date for reason would be communicated to the parties," Mr Mohammed ruled.

Mr Abubakar and his party, on September 23, filed 66 grounds of appeal before the Supreme Court after the presidential election petition tribunal at the Court of Appeal on September 11 dismissed their petition against Mr Buhari's re-election.

Following the tribunal's judgment affirming the re-election of President Buhari, the PDP filed its request before the apex court challenging the decision.

The PDP and Mr Abubakar said the Court of Appeal panel that heard their petition erred in law when it ruled that President Buhari did not need to submit an actual certificate to INEC as part of documents in his CF001.

The PDP also said the presidential tribunal erred when it ruled that the PDP did not provide sufficient evidence to back its claim that Mr Buhari did not attend a secondary school among other issues.

During the court hearing on Wednesday, before the seven-member panel read its about one-minute decision, lawyers in the matter had argued why the appeal should or should not be dismissed.

The lead lawyer representing the petitioners, Levy Uzoukwu, while trying to prove his point started with the issue of Mr Buhari's qualification.

He said it is on record that the second respondent failed to give any explanation between the first name of the respondent which is ' Muhammadu' and the first name appearing on the picture which was tendered as exhibit R19/R21, which is 'Mohamed'.

Mr Uzoukwu backing up his argument said the lower court speculated that the name belongs to the second respondent with "No reason, no evidence," he added.

The senior counsel, presenting the issue of Mr Buhari's certificate, also said no reason was given by Mr Buhari on record why it is impossible to bring forth any of the three certificates he claimed he possessed.

"Nobody, not even his witness could give evidence that they have seen the original, Certified True Copy(CTC) or photocopy.

"In the same vein, Mr Buhari claimed he had primary school certificate, there is no testimony from primary and secondary he claimed he attended. Not even a qualification from Cadet," Mr Uzoukwu said.

On the issue of server, Mr Uzoukwu said the electoral umpire denied having a server but "I submit that if the first respondent appreciates, he should never have denied its existence because they failed to call witnesses, they failed to establish where they store card reader data and Permanent Voters Card (PVC) data."

According to Mr Atiku's lawyer, the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC)'s counsel relied on section 52(2) of the Electoral Act to contend that electronic election is prohibited in the country.

Mr Uzoukwu said the provision INEC relied on was amended and deleted and replaced by another provision in 2015, that is that there is a new section 52(2), he explained.

"The lower court relied on the old provision and we did draw the attention of the lower court on this issue. The new provision has not been interpreted or applied by this or any other court. I urge the court to allow the appeal," Mr Uzoukwu pleaded.

Responding, the lawyer to INEC, Yunus Usman, said the first respondent would adopt its brief of argument filed October 12 but submitted that "the appellants have woefully failed to prove that the first appellant scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the election.

"This is because out of over 191,000 polling units(PU), they called only five PU agents to prove that they scored the majority of the lawful votes cast, when the requirement of the law is that a PU agent must be called to testify in each of the PU across the country. I do not know why they are here. The failure to do so is fatal to their case," Mr Usman added.

Replying to the PDP on the issue of server, Mr Usman said neither of the appellants has proved the particular server they created in March after the election titled

" Until the Electoral Act is amended , INEC does not have the power to transmit electronically.

"We urge the court to dismiss the appeal with substantial cost."

When asked about section 55(2) of the Electoral Act, Mr Usman said the section allows INEC to conduct voting in an election either electronically or manually and the first respondent chose manually.

On his part, Mr Buhari's lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun said they would also adopt their brief of argument filed October 15 and urged the court to dismiss the appeal which he further said, should not have been brought before the court after the painstaking decision of the Appeal Court.

Mr Olanipekun said Mr Uzoukwu tried " to make a mountain out of a molehill, without distinction. According to him, nobody gave an explanation to the difference between Muhammadu and Mohamed.

"He who lives in a glass house does not throw stones. The same lower court ruled in favour of the second respondent, where it held that Levi is the same as Livinus.

"The Constitution has prescribed what a candidate should provide while vying for a position," Mr Olanipekun added.

"On the issue of server they said no member of the appeal panel made findings that INEC had a server. The finding is that there is a website managed and controlled by the electoral umpire.

"Under the evidence act, if there was a server, it should have been tendered because it would be a public document, the court cannot speculate."

Citing a case to buttress his point, the senior counsel submitted that there was nothing in the case, stressing that law is not about sentiment.

The All Progressive Congress (APC) lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, on his part also relied on the process too and urged the court to dismiss the appeal and "as well as the court can carry it, throw it," he added.

In addition, on the issue of name, he said the appellant did not mention it in their petition. "The petition is innocent of this averment."

"On the issue of qualification, I submit with respect that section 318 of the Constitution spells out what the person vying for the presidency must have."

After all arguments by lawyers in the matter, the court stood down for about 20 minutes and returned to dismiss the appeal. The court said its reasons for the decision would be given on a later date to be communicated to the counsels.

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