Ahead of the August 21 date for submission of final written addresses by parties to their petition, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 election, Atiku Abubakar and his party yesterday maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari was not qualified to have contested the poll. In the final written address filed before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, they held that Buhari should be disqualified, and called upon the tribunal to grant all reliefs, including declaring Atiku as the winner of the presidential election as prayed in their petition.
The duo had filed complaints against the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Buhari and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They insisted that they have proved all allegations contained in their petition against the conduct of the election by the electoral body. According to them, five major issues for determination by the five-member tribunal, headed by Justice Mohammed Garba, include whether Buhari at the time of the election was qualified to contest the election.
“Whether Buhari submitted to INEC affidavit containing false information of fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election; Whether from the pleadings and evidence led it was established that Buhari was duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election; Whether the presidential election conducted by INEC on February 23 was invalid by reason of corrupt practices; and Whether the presidential election conducted by INEC on February 23 was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended, the Electoral Guidelines 2019 and manuals issued for the conduct of the election,” they said.
In a 43-page final address filed on behalf of the petitioners by their lead counsel, Dr. Levy Uzoukwu (SAN), they claimed that they have established the fact that Buhari lacked the requisite academic qualification for the position of Nigeria’s president. They noted that even Buhari’s witnesses admitted to that fact under cross-examination when they confessed that he does not possess a school certificate, being the basic requirement to contest the office of the president.
The petitioners said: “We therefore submit that all the purported evidence led by the second respondent (Buhari) to prove that he attended a secondary school or a primary school or that he attended some courses, is irrelevant because he did not rely on any of those purported qualifications in exhibit P1, he relied on primary school certificate, WASC and officer cadet.
“Equally futile is his attempt to prove that he can speak and write in English language. That is all irrelevant to his inability to produce his primary school certificate, secondary school certificate or WASC and his officer cadet qualification, whatever that means. Officer Cadet is not a qualification or certificate under the Constitution and Electoral Act, nor is it known to any law.”
On the Cambridge University certificate tendered by the president, the petitioners queried: “Why was it easier for Buhari to go all the way to Cambridge in the United Kingdom to obtain a bogus document that his own witnesses said was not a certificate when he could just driving down the street in Abuja to the Army Headquarters or place a phone call to the Secretary of the Military Board in Abuja to hurry over with his certificate or certificates.”
On the issue of rigging and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the petitioners said with the evidence tendered and witnesses called, they have been able to show to the tribunal that Buhari’s election was invalid. INEC had declared Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), winner of the election. But Atiku and PDP challenged the declaration, saying Buhari did not win the election.
Atiku and the PDP in their petition filed at the tribunal on March 18, 2019, also alleged electoral irregularities perpetrated by INEC in support of Buhari and the APC by the agents of the federal government, including the military. The tribunal had on August 1 adjourned till August 21 for the adoption of final addresses by parties shortly after the respondents closed their defence against the petition of Atiku and PDP. The petitioners had called in 62 witnesses and tendered plethora of documents, including video evidence to prove their claims. While Buhari called in only seven witnesses and tendered few documents in defence of his victory at the poll, INEC and the APC said they would be relying on the testimonies made by the petitioners’ witnesses during their cross-examination.
However, Atiku and the PDP in the final address asked the tribunal to nullify the election of Buhari since they have been able to adduce evidence to the fact that he was not qualified to run in the first place. Besides, they said they had proved all allegations contained in their petition against the conduct of the presidential election by the INEC.
“We, therefore, submit that all the purported evidence led by the second respondent (Buhari) to prove that he attended a secondary school or a primary school or that he attended some courses is irrelevant because he did not rely on any of those purported qualifications in exhibit P1, he relied on primary school certificate, WASC and Officer Cadet.
“Equally futile is his attempt to prove that he can speak and write in the English language. That is all irrelevant to his inability to produce his primary school certificate, secondary school certificate or WASC and his Officer Cadet qualification, whatever that means. Officer Cadet is not a qualification or certificate under the constitution and Electoral Act; nor is it known to any law,” they said.
On the purported Cambridge University certificate tendered by Buhari before the tribunal, the petitioners asked why “it was easier for Buhari to go all the way to Cambridge in the United Kingdom to obtain a bogus documents that his own witnesses said was not a certificate, instead of just driving down the street in 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.”
Still on the Cambridge University documents, the petitioners submitted that, “a comparison of the purported Cambridge Assessment International Education Certifying Statement of the purported West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate and a certified true copy of the purported confidential result sheet of the University of Cambridge West African School Certificate of 1961 for the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina reveals many discrepancies in the supposed result.
“One listed eight subjects that the candidate therein mentioned one ‘Mohammed Buhari’ allegedly sat for, the other six subjects; both documents are therefore unreliable as both cannot be correct. The contradiction must count against the second respondent. Another false claim by Buhari, according to the petitioners, is that he attended “Elementary School, Daura and Mai Aduwa 1948-52. “Elementary School Daura is totally different from Mai Aduwa – their locations are totally different,” the petitioners said.
He also claimed he entered Middle School, Katsina in 1953. However, the petitioners said by 1953, the Middle School system had been abolished in the Northern Region of Nigeria. On the claim that his certificates were with the military, the petitioners said Buhari failed woefully to prove the claim, “rather the petitioners’ evidence to the contrary was not contested nor challenged.”
The petitioners also argued that they have successfully proved that the Nigerian Army had denied being in possession of Buhari’s alleged certificates. “One of the strongest evidence on the issue was given by the second respondent’s own witness, RW1, General Paul Tarfa (rtd), who under cross-examination by the first respondent (INEC), told the court firmly and unequivocally that the Army did not collect the certificates of military officers and added, ‘there was no such thing”.
On the issue of rigging and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the petitioners said with the plethora of evidence tendered and witnesses called, they had been able to show to the tribunal that Buhari’s election was invalid. They added that analysis of results from 11 states showed how INEC in connivance with Buhari and the APC wrongly and unlawfully credited Buhari with votes not valid or lawful.
According to them, documents tendered before the tribunal showed huge discrepancies between collated results as contained in the tendered Certified True Copies of forms EC8A and polling units. They further alleged that a total of 2, 906,384 votes were cancelled across the country, while 2, 698,773 Nigerians were disenfranchised. They said the two figures when added exceeded the 3, 928,869 differential between the votes as stated in INEC form EC8E.
In addition, they said they had led evidence to show that INEC violated its own regulations and guidelines with respect to mandatory use of the smart card reader in the process of accreditation, which according to them occasioned over voting thereby rendering the election null and void. They therefore prayed the tribunal to grant all the reliefs sought for in their petition.
INEC had declared Buhari and his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), winner of the February 23 presidential election having won majority of the lawful votes cast at the polls. But Atiku and PDP had continued to insist that they and not Buhari won the presidential election of February 23.