Buhari to Tribunal: Atiku’s Petition is a Sham

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Details from the final address by lawyers to President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, revealed a spirited defence against the petition by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal describing it as a patent sham and lacking in merit. President Buhari was adjudged the winner of the February 23 presidential elections, by over 15 million votes as against Atiku’s 11,262,978 votes.

According to the final addresses filed by lawyers to President Buhari and the APC at the tribunal, former Vice President Atiku and the PDP “have failed in their attempt to stridently but erroneously prove their petitions” which was premised on six grounds, but hinged mainly on the alleged use of an electronic server to transmit results of the elections, and the educational qualification of Buhari to contest the election.

On the issue of the electronic server, the address noted that the argument from Atiku’s team that the results of the Presidential election were transmitted electronically from all polling units across the country was a “patent sham,” describing the entire case of Atiku at best as “infantile.” Explaining further, the address noted that Atiku and PDP “failed woefully to establish, by credible evidence, the existence of the imaginary server belonging to the INEC and into which results were electronically transmitted from polling units.”

The final address submitted the fact that INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had clearly stated, before the general elections, that electronic transmission of results to server would not be possible for the 2019 general elections. The INEC Chairman had stated that this was due to the major constraint of lack of Internet connectivity in most parts of Nigeria, especially blind spots/grassroot areas that were not covered by digital network.

Moreover, the law in Nigeria does not recognize (and actually prohibits) transmission of results electronically. Sections 52 and 73 of the Electoral Act 2010 are categorical on this. The only means of transmission of election results, under the law, is the Form EC8 Series; especially Form EC8A at the Polling Units. It is only through these approved forms that election results in Nigeria can be proven. Not by any Server or Servers, imaginary or real.

The addresses also buttressed their conclusion on the Atiku petition with the failure of the PDP’s Kenyan “expert” witness to prove the claims made in the petition. The “expert” tendered eight exhibits in support of his testimonies, he did not attach any certificate detailing his area of expertise as well as the certificates of his educational qualifications to his statement on oath as required by law. “Similarly, his testimony, in all respects, only amounts to manipulations, conjecture and speculations,” the lawyers stated.

According to the final addresses, not only did the ‘so called expert’ admit that the IP address of the alleged website, the source of the purported electronic results has been used by many companies in many countries all over the world; he also admitted that he made use of information provided by a faceless and unidentified whistle blower in carrying out his analysis and not from INEC; since INEC did not give him the authorisation to have access to the alleged server.”

Interestingly, the purported server allocated results to only two (PDP and APC) of the 73 political parties that participated in the elections. The ‘expert’ also conceded in open court that the so-called website was created after the date of the presidential elections.

Similarly, the lawyers noted that the petition by Atiku and the PDP “failed woefully to adduce credible and reliable evidence to establish the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari forged his certificate as alleged in their petition.” According to the President’s address, “While it is appropriate to debunk such baseless, mendacious and spurious assertion, it suffices to bring to fore the unequivocal provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which states the requirement for a candidate to contest the presidential election and occupy the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 131(d) provides that; A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if – He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”

“More so, the consequence of submitting a forged document to INEC is grave. It therefore requires precise evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt, which the Petitioners have not been able to establish,” it added. Drawing reference from the Constitution, the address stated that Section 318 of the Constitution, defines a Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent’ to mean: “A secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or Education up to Secondary School Certificate Level; or Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and (a). Service in the public or private sector in the Federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a Minimum of ten years…It is apparent that from the pleadings and evidence adduced led by the Petitioners there is no scintilla or iota of evidence to prove that President Muhammadu Buhari was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election. It is trite law that he who asserts must prove,” the address emphasised.

The address further added that, “It could be recalled that the 2nd Respondent tendered various exhibits confirming that President Muhammadu Buhari has attained the level of education required to qualify for the position he currently holds. The 2nd Respondent further tendered a statement signed by the Vice Chancellor, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom attesting to the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari sat for the West African School Certificate Examination in 1961, at Provincial Secondary School, Katsina.”

Continuing, the address stated that the evidence provided under cross-examination by Buba Galadima, a witness from Atiku’s camp, had also rubbished the latter’s petition. “He (Galadima) told the court that he believed that President Muhammadu Buhari was qualified to vie and contest for the office of the President at the four times he supported him in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015; that President Muhammadu Buhari was a Military Head of State between 1983 and 1985; that Buhari used to address the nation in English Language.”

On the non-calling of witnesses by the 1st and 3rd Respondents, the lawyers explained that although the 1st and 3rd Respondents (INEC and the APC) called no witnesses of their own, it is however important to stress that they elicited copious relevant evidence from the Petitioners’ and 2nd Respondent’s (President Buhari) witnesses under cross-examination.”

“It is trite that non-calling of witnesses by a party to a case does not mean non-calling of evidence. The evidence elicited from a party or his witnesses under cross-examination, which supports the case of the party cross-examining constitutes evidence in support of the case or defence of the party. Furthermore, in a case of this nature, which involves declaratory reliefs, the onus is on the Petitioner to prove its case in order to be entitled to the reliefs sought.”