*Judgment is victory for all Nigerians -Buhari
*Atiku rejects ruling, heads to Supreme Court
By Vivian Okejeme, Lateef Ibrahim and Lawrence Olaoye
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, has dismissed the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
In the judgement, the tribunal held that the petitioners have not proved any of the grounds of the petition in paragraph 15 of the petition.
The Justice Mohammed Garba-led panel in the judgement held that it dismissed the petition in its entirety.
The tribunal held that there is no evidence before the court to prove that the second respondent (Buhari) lied that he attended the primary and secondary schools in the Form C 001 he submitted to the INEC.
The tribunal insisted that exhibits R W 1 and 2 proved that the respondent attended primary school that is mentioned in the form, which means he was educated.
The tribunal also held that Buhari fulfilled the provisions of Section 31(4) and 32(2) which says that the information submitted by the candidate will be accompanied with a sworn affidavit.
‘’The candidate is qualified to participate to contest for election if he attended up to school certificate level or its equivalent.
‘’It must not necessarily mean the candidate must pass the examination.
‘’The law is certain the candidate is not mandated to attach certificate before he will be allowed to contest.
‘’There is no doubt that the second respondent is not only qualified, but he is eminently qualified to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He therefore held that “This petition is accordingly, and hereby dismissed in its entirety.’’
On the issue of election results being transmitted electronically, the tribunal maintained that the petitioners’ witness failed to establish the claims of the petitioners on the issue of electronic transmission of results of the 2019 election.
According to Justice Garba, the manual for the election issued by INEC did not provide for electronic transmission of results of the election
‘’ I have carefully examined and re-examined the exhibit B27 and there is nothing to prove that the election results were transmitted electronically through a smart card reader.
‘’Petitioners’ Witness 59, who was brought in from Kenya, failed to prove that there was an INEC server.
‘’The petitioners witness 59 relied on hearsay information about the said INEC server posted on a website, www.factsdontlie.com by a purported whistleblower who was never known.
‘’Card reader machine was not used to transmit results during the election but for mere authentication of ownership of voter cards,’’ he held.
Ruling on the issues raised by the petitioners on “none holding of elections in some polling units, cancellation of results, over-voting, inflation and deflation of votes among other things, the tribunal held that:
“The petitioners did not prove all the allegations which are criminal in nature beyond reasonable doubt.’’
However, the tribunal had on the INEC’s application that Atiku and PDP should be dismissed on the ground that the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo was not joined in the suit, the tribunal held that going by the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act, Vice President is not a necessary party but an interested one.
It further held that the VC needs not to be joined to the petition since the candidate of the party and the party used were joined in the petition.
‘’The running mate in an election is not a necessary party. They are just an appendage. His exclusion is not fatal to the petition.
‘’The application is not grounded in law and hereby dismissed.’’
Further on the INEC’s second motion challenging a jurisdiction and competence of the petition, the tribunal held that Atiku and his party has the jurisdiction to challenge the qualification of Buhari to stand for the February 23 presidential poll.
Striking out the motion, the tribunal maintained that the petition was not a pre-election matter as argued by the INEC.
The tribunal, however said that criminal allegations, corruption and unlawful interference in the election matters made against the military will not be treated by the tribunal because the unknown soldiers who allegedly commuted the crime where not joined as respondents in the petition.
The tribunal held that the soldiers will not be able to defend themselves and will be denied fair hearing since there are not in the tribunal.
On whether Dr Uzoukwu SAN, who signed a petition is a name of a legal practitioner, the tribunal said, ‘’ With all sense of justice, it is not a case of unknown person. It us whether Uzoukwu is called to bar.
‘’ I noted and saw that NBA seal appeared before Uzoukwu’s name and the seal bears his name and valid till March 2020.
‘’ The law is trite, when facta are presented in an affidavit where a party fails to swear to an affidavit and the facts are adulterated.
President Muhammadu Buhari has described the ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal upholding his election at the February 23, 2019 Presidential election as a victory for Nigerians who trooped out to overwhelmingly elect him for a second term in office.
The president in his reaction to the Tribunal ruling made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, declared “Good conscience fears no evil report. I was unperturbed all along, because I knew Nigerians freely gave us the mandate. We are now vindicated.”
He dedicated the victory to God, and to Nigerians, while also commending the judiciary for “dispensing justice without fear or favour.”
He extended a hand of fellowship to those who had felt aggrieved at the outcome of the election, and went to court, noting that it was within their democratic rights.
The President noted, however, that with the pronouncement of the judiciary, “it is time for the country to move forward as one cohesive body, putting behind us all bickering and potential distractions over an election in which Nigerians spoke clearly and resoundingly.”
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has completely rejected the judgment, describing it as provocative, barefaced subversion of justice and direct assault on the integrity of our nation’s justice system.
The PDP, however, encouraged Nigerians to remain calm and not to lose hope or surrender to despondency or self-help, “as our lawyers are upbeat in obtaining justice at the Supreme Court”.
The PDP made its position on the judgement of the PEPT known yesterday in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja.