The presidential election petition tribunal will today deliver judgement in the petition brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The petition was filed on March 18, about 177 days ago.
According to the provisions of the electoral law, a petition of this nature is to be determined within 180 days after it was filed.
The PDP is challenging the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the 2019 presidential election.
According to the petitioners, Mr Abubakar’s investigation of the central server from the Independent National Electoral Commission showed that the PDP polled 18,356,732 votes, instead of the 11,262,978 votes attributed to it by INEC.
The PDP and Mr Abubakar also claimed that they defeated President Buhari who was declared winner with 15,191,847 votes by INEC.
They also claimed that Mr Buhari lied on oath about his educational qualifications and should thus be disqualified.
INEC denied having a server and Mr Buhari’s lawyers said the president was qualified to contest the election.
PREMIUM TIMES will bring you the details of the final proceedings at the tribunal as the events unfold.
There is a very heavy presence of security officials here, both inside and outside the court premises.
Although the senior lawyers are yet to arrive, the courtroom is already a beehive of activities with many lawyers present.
Mr Kyari was the witness who presented the Cambridge University certificate of Mr Buhari.
He told the tribunal that he obtained the documents “personally” on July 18, 2019.
The court room is gradually getting filled up with a number of top government functionaries, including the Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of State for Niger Delta, Festus Keyamo, already seated in court.
PDP’s senior lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu, is here. A court clerk has announced that the judge will begin session shortly.
There is yet no senior PDP office holder in court.
The court clerk calls the first petition by the PDP. A lawyer who identifies himself as Yahaya Abubakar introduces himself as representing Atiku Abubakar.
May Agbamuche-Mbu represents INEC while Waleed Ahmed Sarki represents Mr Buhari.
Adams Oshiomhole is representing APC.
Levi Uzuegwu announces appearance for PDP with some other lawyers.
Yunus Usman announces appearance for INEC. The tribunal chairman observes that there are more than 40 INEC lawyers in the court room.
Taiwo Osikpitan announces his appearance for Mr Buhari, and the tribunal notes that Mr Osikpitan came with a team of over 60 lawyers.
Lateef Fagbemi, who announced appearance for the APC, said he was told by Mr Buhari’s lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun, to apologise on behalf of Mr Olanikpekun who is away in Europe and unable to make it to court on Wednesday.
The tribunal Chairman, Garba Mohammed, addresses the court: “You recall that the court had noted after the final addresses were taken that it will give a date for the final decision. That date is today.
“You will also recall that a number of applications were taken whose rulings were reserved till the date of the final judgment in accordance with provisions of the first schedule. Those rulings are ready. They will be delivered before the final ruling.”
Garba Mohammed continues to address the court: He noted that he would start with the first respondents motion filed on May 5, 2019.
He said INEC had asked the court to strike out the petition because the petitioners failed to add the name of the vice president who is a necessary party to the petition.
The application had four grounds upon which it was filed. And the court said the PDP filed its responses to the INEC application.
Among the four grounds are: that the vice president is an indispensable party to the petition and that his fair hearing would be breached should a decision be reached without his input.
That Section 137 (2) of the Electoral Act makes Mr Osinbajo a vital part of the petition.
That if the section above is to be followed the petition would be invalidated.
The tribunal has dismissed the first preliminary objection filed by INEC seeking nullification of the PDP petition on the grounds that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was not joined as an interested party.
The court holds that the vice president is not a necessary party in an election petition, saying as an appendage to the candidate, he rises and falls with the candidate.
The tribunal has moved on to another petition.
The second application was also filed by INEC: asking the court to strike out the petitioners’ witnesses and documents, on the allegation that the person who signed the petition is not a lawyer.
INEC also called for the dismissal of other prayers of PDP. It includes the allegation of result manipulation, saying it was vague.
The court upheld that the name of the PDP lead counsel, Levi Uzoukwu, whose name was spelt wrongly, is a legal practitioner called to the Nigerian Bar.
The court dismissed the application, saying the PDP lawyer was called to bar in 1982 and that he is the only one who bears that name in the Nigerian Bar Association.
“I have noted the clauses and it is glaring that there is a seal of the NBA on the application. The name is Livinus Uzoukwu showing that the seal is valid.”
The court addressed the issues raised in the petition which borders on the alleged non-qualification of President Muhammadu Buhari. The Court ruled that Section 138 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act allows for the filing of the petition relating to the allegation of false information and therefore the tribunal was well within its powers to entertain the application and determine the details contained the petition.
Further interpretation of Mr Buhari’s qualifications:
The court dismissed the application seeking to suggest that the complaints by the PDP against Mr Buhari’s qualification contained in section “d” of their petition should only be regarded as a pre-election matter.
“I am of the view that the contents of section 138 (1)a does not fall in the category of a pre-election matter,” he said.
He said although the issue relates to a matter that happened before the election, the issues relate to vital points that cannot be relegated just to a pre-election matter.
The court also decided on an application brought by President Muhammadu Buhari which sought to ensure that the tribunal dismissed parts of the PDP petition.
The tribunal chairman, Garba Mohammed, addressed Mr Buhari’s application where the president said the PDP’s contention bordered on an issue of government policy, not on an election matter.
In the said paragraphs, the vice president was accused by the PDP of making use of government funds through the trader moni policy to induce voters.
The court said that it did not have jurisdiction to decide whether or not the vice president indeed misappropriated funds under his watch.
The tribunal has also decided on an application by the APC challenging the qualification of Atiku Abubakar on the grounds that he is allegedly not a Nigerian.
Justice Garba Mohammed ruled that the application lacks merit as Mr Abubakar met the constitutionally required provisions to be regarded a Nigerian.
The court said the APC should have used the energy spent on attempting to prove Mr Abubakar’s nationality to filing other issues before the tribunal.
The court just returned from a 40-minute break.
The tribunal is discussing the main application by the PDP which is for the court to nullify Mr Buhari’s election as president.
The court noted that PDP petition was premised on the following grounds:
That Mr Buhari was not duly elected by the majority of votes.
That the elections were invalid by virtue of widespread manipulation.
That there was widespread non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
That Mr Buhari was not qualified to have contested and that he supplied false information to the INEC.
Reading through Section 131 of the Constitution, the Court said Mr Buhari had noted that he attended the requisite educational qualification.
There is no evidence before the court to prove that the second respondent lied in his form or that he joined the army without his secondary educational qualifications.
The court said the Constitution only requires a person to be educated to a school certificate level.
“Where the provision of the law is straight forward, the Court cannot give it an interpretation which it does not suggest,” the court said. “In my view, the provisions of the Electoral Act are clearly inapplicable to the issues in contention.”
The court said the law does not require that a person must attach his certificate before he can be qualified to contest an election.
The court says PDP’s contention is “misconceived as submission of the certificate is not a requirement for the election.
The court says Mr Buhari’s certificates from the military is higher than the secondary school certificate.
It adds that the Army had dismissed the claims made by the petitioners regarding Mr Buhari’s certificate and that the PDP failed to further prove its claims.
The court held that the evidence tendered by the PDP regarding Mr Buhari’s qualifications were not to be relied upon since the PDP was not the original makers of the documents.
The chairman of the panel reads a publication suggesting Mr Buhari’s certificate was not with the military.
He also reads a declaration by a principal of Mr Buhari’s secondary school who had noted Mr Buhari attended the school.
Justice Garba Mohammed also read various documentations in which the Army noted that it was in possession of Mr Buhari’s secondary school results.
He decides, “There is no doubt the second respondent is not only qualified but is also eminently qualified.”
The court said Mr Buhari is not the maker of his certificate, and there is nothing to show that the errors in the names of Buhari as indicated on the certificates from Cambridge and WEAC implied that the certificate did not belong to Mr Buhari.
“I am of the opinion that whether it is Muhammadu Buhari with a U and Mohammed Buhari with an O,” they relate to the same person the court ruled
On the controversial use of a central server by INEC, the court says under the existing Electoral Act, “It is undeniable that the transmission of election result is manual at different and all levels of the elections at different stages from the states to the national level.”
“There is no provision authorising the first respondent or any of its officers to transfer election results to any of the servers. There is also nothing allowing the first respondents to use the smart card reader for the collation of results.”
The court says PDP relied on “third-party” information for its position on the server.
“As can be seen it is not supported by any legal opinion. He relied on third-party information given to him by an anonymous whistleblower, who cannot be relied upon,” Justice Mohammed said after pointing out that the server argument was based on a whistleblower website.
Reading through the details submitted by the PDP regarding how it came about the conclusion that the party won the elections, the Court said the evidence alluded by the witness number 60, Joseph Gbenga, a data analyst, could not be relied upon.
“It is my decision that PW 60 cannot be regarded as an expert. As a matter of fact, he admitted under oath that he is not certified.”
The court dismisses PDP and Atiku Abubakar’s petition against the election of Mr Buhari saying the petitioners failed to prove their case.
Justice Muhammad said the petitioner failed to prove allegations of election not being held in some polling units, cancellation of results, over-voting, vote inflation, and deflation among other things.
“The petitioners have a duty to prove all the allegations which are criminal in nature beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.
“The petitioners pleaded that so many of their agents were situated in various polling units and that members of the first respondents connived with security agents to conduct massive rigging”.
“They also alleged that no real voting took place in Dekina local government area, among others,” the court said.
The court, however, added that the PDP failed to call the polling unit agents who would have testified to the fact that they were arrested, harrased or affected by the violence pictured by the petitioners.
There is no admissible evidence on record to support the petitioners’ allegations, the Court ruled.
The All Progressive Congres(APC) lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi commended the petitioners for coming to court.
Mr Fagbemi thanked the five-member panel of the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman, Garba Mohammed, thanked all the parties involved in the petition for their kind words.
Mr Mohammed said he looks forward to other meetings.
The court session ends