PDP’s Atiku files appeal at Supreme Court

Nigeria’s former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar has officially filed an appeal at the Supreme Court over the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal of September 11, which nullified his petitions in their entirely.

Atiku’s legal team filed the appeal two days to the deadline for such to be filed at the Supreme Court. The deadline is Wednesday.

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal had in its final verdict on the petitions by Atiku and the PDP announced the dismissal of the petitions in their entirety.

Indications that the verdict was heading towards this conclusion were clear as the Tribunal picked on grounds after grounds of the petition, clinically knocking them off, one after the other, especially the major pillars: the existence of an INEC server and President Muhammadu Buhari’s eligibility to stand for election.

The INEC server did not exist and Buhari was eminently qualified, educationally, to stand for election, the Tribunal found.

Justice Garba Lawal Mohammed who read the judgment said the petitioners failed to prove any of the grounds canvassed as provided by the law. Their failure to do so, was detrimental to their case and made the petitions bound to fail.

He said the witnesses brought to court were also unable to prove allegations of electoral malpractice or violence at the polling units. He said the polling agents that could do so were not called to give evidence.

The judgment hinged on five issues raised by the petitioners which was whether Buhari was qualified to contest the election.

The petitioners also asked the tribunal to decide whether the alleged false information by the president on his educational qualification amounted to perjury.

They further invited the tribunal to decide whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not transmit the results of the election electronically via its central server.

The petitioners asked the court to decide whether the respondents did not benefit from widespread rigging, over voting, violence intimidation perpetrated by their agents and security forces deployed to oversee the conduct of the election.

Lastly, the petitioners urged the tribunal to hold that the president did not secure majority lawful votes.

Garba said the petitioners were unable to satisfactorily provide evidence to substantially prove the allegations contained in the issues canvassed.

“The tribunal is left without options to grant any of the prayers because we are not magicians to decipher exactly what to do in the circumstance other than to dismiss the petition,’’ he said.

On the alleged non-qualification of the president to contest the election, Garba said Buhari was duly screened and certified to contest the election by INEC as he met the requirement and guidelines set by the electoral body.

On the allegation of false information on his educational qualification, the chairman of the panel held that evidence placed before the court showed that Buhari obtained Secondary School Certificate.

The judge also held that the president enlisted in the country’s military and steadily rose to the rank of Major General.

He said the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 had also placed powers on the electoral body to decide alternative qualification for those aspiring to contest elective positions in the country.

On whether the results of the general election were transmitted electronically to INEC’s central server, Garba said no existing law had approved the use of such technology in the electoral process, adding that the laws only mandated the manual collation of election results.

Deciding on the allegation of widespread malpractices and violent disruption of the election, Garba held that the petitioners failed to bring specific evidence to substantiate those claims.

He said negligible numbers of the 62 witnesses called by the petitioners highlighted issues that bordered on electoral fraud.

Garba said allegations of electoral fraud made by the petitioners were criminal in nature and therefore required to be proved beyond reasonable doubts.

The judge also held that neither the president nor the All Progressives Congress (APC) could be held to account for the alleged ballot box snatches and other cases of violence allegedly carried out by individuals.

“The respondents cannot be held culpable for the alleged overzealousness of some security forces accused to have unleashed terror on voters and supporters of the petitioners during the election.

“There is no such thing as transferring the transgression of an alleged thug or security agents to the respondents who had no direct involvement with whatever crime alleged about.

“Also, it is expected that the petitioners should have brought witnesses who were at the spot in all of the polling units where these alleged malpractices and violence were committed.

“In the circumstance, the petition lacks depth as the petitioners were unable to discharge the burden of proof on all the issues before us.

“The petition is therefore dismissed for lack of competence. All parties to bear their costs,’’ Garba said.

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