Agbakoba clarifies opinion on Atiku’s election petition

A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba
A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, has said his comments on the planned petition by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over the February 23 presidential election was misconstrued.

The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association said this in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday.

Mr Agbakoba had, last week, advised Mr Abubakar and his party to avoid litigating the outcome of the presidential election.

But in his latest statement, the senior lawyer said his advice on the seeming futility of the PDP’s application should not be taken to mean he was suggesting that Mr Abubakar and his party will fail at the tribunal.

“Much has been made about my position on former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, approaching the court to challenge the result of the February 23, 2019, Presidential Election,” he said.

“I have been misquoted to say the former vice president will lose at the Presidential Election Tribunal. That is far from the truth. I meant the former vice president will face an uphill task, given the circumstances of challenging the Election results.

“My initial decision to charge former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, not to go to court is based on the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has subverted the Supreme Court by the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen and the appointment of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“My perception is that we need to resolve the status of the Supreme Court. I wonder what is taking the National Judicial Council so long. I am also worried about the historical precedent, as no petition on Presidential Election result has ever succeeded.

Mr Agbakoba said as one of Nigeria’s experienced election petition lawyers, he knows that the burden of proof to succeed in an Election Petition is “unfairly huge.”

“We first have to prove that there are electoral irregularities and in my view, once you prove this, you should succeed,” he said.

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“Unfortunately, even if you prove electoral irregularities you will have to show how that affected the results of the Election. Remember that the gap between former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, and President Muhammadu Buhari is about 4 million votes.”

Mr Agbakoba said he wished Mr Abubakar and his party well and does not believe his advice overrides the constitutional rights of the PDP.

“It is clear to me that the Presidential Election results were manifestly riddled with electoral irregularities. Now that Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has approached the Court, it is important to emphasise that he is constitutionally entitled to do so. My personal advice has become irrelevant. I fully support and wish former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, every success.”

Mr Abubakar and the PDP have asked the election tribunal for permission to inspect the materials used for the election.

The application is part of plans by the PDP to file a formal complaint against the result of the presidential election.

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