The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has fixed Wednesday for delivery of its judgment in the petition filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last presidential election, against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The five man panel headed by Justice Mohammed Garba had on August 21 reserved judgment in the petition to a date that would be communicated to parties shortly after all lawyers in the petition adopted and argued their final written addresses.
Huhuonline.com learnt from sources close to Atiku’s legal team that the tribunal has fixed tomorrow for judgment barely five days to the expiration of the statute of limitations of the petition. One of the lawyers in the matter, who elected anonymity, confirmed that the tribunal communicated the date for judgment to parties on Tuesday. The judgment if delivered tomorrow falls within the 180 days provided by law for the determination of electoral matters.
Atiku’s camp on Tuesday expressed hope that the election tribunal will deliver judgement in his favor on Wednesday. “We are hopeful of the judgement of the tribunal,” Atiku’s spokesman Paul Ibe told reporters. “It is not about Atiku or the PDP, it is about you and me, every Nigerian that we are hopeful Atiku will be declared winner.”
Atiku a former Nigeria vice president is challenging the election result which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared President Buhari the winner. INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu said Buhari polled 15,191,847 votes to defeat Atiku, who polled 11,262,978 votes. However, Atiku and the PDP said the election was ‘massively’ rigged.
While both Atiku and Buhari await the Justice Muhammed Lawan Garba-led tribunal judgement on Wednesday, September 11, Ibe said, “Atiku and PDP are optimistic that the voice of the people is upheld.” He, however, did not disclose Atiku’s next line of action if the tribunal affirms Buhari’s victory at the presidential election.
During tribunal hearings, Atiku and the PDP contended with the election results that the data obtained from INEC’s server showed that they polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari whom they said scored 16,741,430 votes. INEC, however, said that it had no server where the election results were transmitted during the February 23 presidential election.
They also alleged that Buhari lied on oath when he claimed that he had three certificates but could not produce even a photocopy to support his Form CF 001, submitted to INEC during clearance. Atiku and PDP had also alleged irregularities, including intimidation of electorate as well as alteration of election results during and after the election, respectively.
Atiku called 62 witnesses out of the 400 initially penciled to buttress his claims. On the other hand, Buhari called six. However, both INEC and APC did not call any witness. Counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), told the tribunal that it was not necessary to call witnesses, having extracted useful information from evidence given by the petitioners’ witnesses.
But INEC’s lawyer debunked the use of the electronic devices in the conduct of the election. Atiku’s lawyers led by Levy Uzoukwu, in addition to calling 62 witnesses, also tendered some documents, including Form CF 001, where President Muhammadu Buhari supplied his personal information to INEC for clearance to enable him to stand for the February 23 Presidential election. In the said Form CF 001, President Buhari claimed that he has three certificates, including Primary School Leaving Certificate, West African School Certificate, as well as the Cadet Officer Certificate. But he did not attach copies of the said documents to his form.
His explanation, however, was that in 1962 when he joined the Nigerian Army, he and his colleagues were ordered to submit all their original certificates to the Nigerian Army Board. Buhari’s lawyer, Wale Olanipekun (SAN), said that evidence cleared the doubt over his client’s certificate controversies. “After all, no law stipulated presentation of certificates as a prerequisite for the qualification to contest election for the office of the president,” he told the tribunal.