By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) yesterday, reserved judgment in a petition filed by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) challenging the conduct of the February 23 presidential election.
This is following the adoption of the final written addresses submitted by the parties to establish their cases and in defence in the petition.
The party, had through its counsel, Mr. Chukwunoyerem Njoku, maintained that they have before the tribunal enough ingredients to warrant the petition to be rule in their favor.
They insisted that the February 23, poll that returned President Muhammad Buhari, be set aside on the ground that the electoral body did not follow conditions precedent in the Electoral Act, 2010 before postponing the election earlier scheduled for February 16.
In their argument, Njoku told the tribunal that a referendum was conducted in line with the law, insisting that the presidential candidate of the HDP Chief Albert Ambrose Owuru emerged winner of the referendum with over fifty million votes.
Njoku submitted that Nigerian citizens participated in the February 16 2019 referendum as required by law and urged the tribunal to nullify the declaration of president Buhari by INEC as president and in his place restore Owuru as the authentic winner.
They described the election as unlawful, unconstitutional and illegal.
Therefore, he prayed the tribunal to void the poll and declared them as the lawful winners on the strength of the February 16 referendum.
The counsel argued that Buhari cannot be said to be president on the strength February 23 election because the purported election was without merit.
However President Muhammadu Buhari through it lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that it is frivolous, baseless and lacking in merit.
Olanipekun told the tribunal that the petitioners did not in any way adduce evidence on how the referendum was conducted and who conducted it in line with the provisions of the law.
President Buhari’s counsel further told the tribunal that he had carefully studied the final address of the HDP and its presidential candidate and found that there was nowhere in the address that they made any case against President Muhammadu Buhari.
On its own part, INEC, through its counsel Mr. Yinus Usman SAN while adopting his final address urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost to serve as a deterrent to those who may wish to file frivolous and baseless petitions in the 2023 elections.
Usman said that the claims of the two petitioners are strange to the electoral body and the law itself adding that INEC conducted an election known to law and not a referendum.
He therefore, urged the tribunal to uphold the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 lawful presidential election.
Adopting its final address, the All Progressive Congress(APC) through its counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi SAN, said the petition is lacking in merit.
They therefore, asked the tribunal to dismissed the petition.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba, after listening to there addresses, reserved judgment in the petition till a date to be communicated to parties in the matter.