2019 presidential poll: Tribunal reserves ruling as Atiku alleges Buhari gave false information to run for election

Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Wednesday pointedly told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that President Muhammadu Buhari used fundamental falsehood to secure clearance from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to participate in the poll.

Atiku, in his final address, insisted that Buhari, as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), lied on oath in his form CF001 presented to INEC before standing for the presidential election.
In the final address presented on his behalf by his lead counsel, Dr Levy Uzuokwu SAN, Atiku drew the attention of the Tribunal to a portion of his INEC form where he claimed to have three different certificates; comprising Primary School leaving certificate, WAEC certificate and Officers Cadet certificate.

The petitioners said it was shocking and surprising that “No Provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certificates, no photocopy of certificates and in fact no electronic version of any of the certificates was presented by Buhari throughout the hearing of the petition to dispute the claim of the petitioners.

“More worrisome is the fact that Buhari’s own witness Major General Paul Tafa Rtd, who joined the Nigerian Army with him in 1962 told the tribunal that they were never asked to submit their certificates to the Nigerian Army Board as claimed by Buhari in his form CF001.

“At any rate the Secretary of the Nigerian Army Board, Olatunde Olaleye had in a statement clarified that Buhari had no single certificate in his personal file with the Nigerian Army”.

Atiku, therefore, urged the tribunal to nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that Buhari lied on oath to deceive Nigerians and to secure unlawful qualification for the election.

The former Vice President informed the tribunal that the claim of Buhari that he can read and write in English language as enough qualification for him was of no moment because ordinary artisans on the streets of Nigeria van also do so, adding that a grave allegation bordering on certificate was not addressed by Buhari as required by law.

The PDP presidential candidate also faulted the claim of INEC that it has no central server, adding that server is a storage facility including computer where database of registered voters, number of permanent voter card and election results amongst others are stored for references.

He said the claim by INEC that it has no device like server to store information, “ais laughable, tragic and a story for the dogs”.

Atiku’s lawyer in the final address debunked the claim of INEC that collation and transmission of results electronically was prohibited by law in Nigeria.

He asserted that by Electoral Amendment Act of March 26, 2015, the use of electronics became law and was officially gazetted for the country, adding that section 9 of the Act which made provision for electronic collation of results replaced section 52 which hitherto prohibited the use of electronics and which INEC erroneously held that electronic results transmission is prohibited.

He, therefore, urged the tribunal to uphold the petition and nullified the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that he was not qualified to have stood for the election, in addition to malpractices that prompted his declaration as winner of the election.

However, INEC, represented by Yunus Usman SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost because the electoral body conducted the election in total compliance with the Nigerian constitution and Electoral Act 2010 and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.

Usman insisted that INEC did not transmit election results electronically because doing so is prohibited by law and that the Commission did not call any witness because there was no need to do so.

In his defence, President Muhammadu Buhari through his counsel Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, argued that atiku’s petition was liable to be dismissed because it is lacking in evidence, merit and substance and that the petition is I’ll advised and signified nothing.

Olanipekun cited section 131 of the Constitution which stipulated a minimum of secondary school attendance to qualify for election in Nigeria, adding that Buhari cannot go beyond that and that he does not need to tender or attached certificate before he can get qualification for any election.

He, averred that there was nothing in law to persuade the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election as pleaded by Atiku and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost.

The APC represented by Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN, in his own submission said the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the nullification of the election as pleaded by the petitioners and urged the tribunal to throw out the petition as long as its hand can do with huge cost.

However, the Tribunal Chairman after taken submissions from all parties announced that judgment in the petition has been reserved and that the date for its delivery would be communicated to parties.

Speaking with journalists after the proceedings counsel to Atiku, Dr Levy Uzoukwu insisted that Atiku’s petition will in one way or another expand jurisprudence in electoral matters.

The senior lawyer said his team has presented a very good case and it is now left for the court to do justice.

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