Tribunal says Buhari eminently qualified to run; Ex-VP’s petition lacks merit
.Mixed reactions trail judgment as PDP heads to Supreme Court
In a unanimous decision, the five -member panel of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday upheld the election of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the duly elected President in the February 23 presidential election.
The tribunal dismissed the petition brought by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and the party for lacking in merit, ruling that the petitioners were unable to prove the avalanches of allegations contained in their petition.
Dismissing the petition in his lead judgment, Chairman of the panel, Justice Mohammed Garba said that “the petitioners have not proved any of the allegations including the alleged existence of a central server and their claim that Buhari lacks the requisite educational qualification to contest the election.”
The tribunal said that from evidence adduced by both the petitioners and respondents as well as exhibits tendered before the panel, it is clear that Buhari is eminently qualified to contest election for the post of President.
According to him, Buhari clearly demonstrated that he had obtained credits in English Language, history, health science, Hausa and a pass in English literature in his West African School Certificate (WASC).
Justice Garba said that evidences before the tribunal also show that Buhari had acquired additional qualifications and he had served more than 10 years as a public officer.
The tribunal chairman, who took about eight hours in delivering the judgment, held that the petitioners provided evidence that Buhari had obtained the requisite qualification, adding that the petitioners exhibits merely collaborated the statement issued by the army through Brig. Gen. Olajide Olaniyi that Buhari had the requisite educational qualification.
The tribunal said that the petitioners after their failure to prove their allegation that Buhari did not obtain the West African School Certificate in their evidence- in- chief, woefully relied on respondent witnesses.
The tribunal said that it is clear from evidence and exhibits that Buhari obtained credits in English Language, history, health science, geography, Hausa and pass in English literature.
“I am of the view that the petitioners have failed to prove that Buhari does not possess a certificate or provided false information of fundamental falsehood,” Justice Garba held.
The tribunal resolved all the five issues raised by the petitioners which were adopted for the resolution of the matter against the petitioners.
For instance, on issue three which dealt with the transmission of results to a central server, the tribunal noted that INEC has denied the existence of server and therefore, held that INEC’s manual for the conduct of the election was specific that after the voting, the votes were recorded on Form EC8 A and taken to the ward collation centre officer.
“Similar procedure was repeated at the ward, local and state levels and no provision in the Electoral Act provide for transmission of results through the use of smart card reader.
“There was no transmission of results electronically or through the smart card reader as alleged by the petitioners. There was no electronic collation of results during the 2019 presidential election,” he pronounced.
Justice Garba held that there is no provision in the Electoral Act allowing the use of electronic collation and transmission of results of the election.
Earlier in the judgment, the tribunal had dismissed all the preliminary objections raised by the respondents for lacking in merit. Each party is to bear their costs.
Four other members of the panel, Justice Abdul Aboki, Justice Joseph Ikeygh, Justice Samuel Oseji and Justice Peter Ige, agreed with the lead judgment.
Reacting to the affirmation of his re-election, President Buhari described Wednesday’s verdict as victory for Nigerians who trooped out to overwhelmingly elect him for a second term.
The President’s reaction was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, issued in Abuja on Wednesday.
“Good conscience fears no evil report. I was unperturbed all along because I knew Nigerians freely gave us the mandate. We are now vindicated,” he said.
While dedicating the victory to God, and to Nigerians, Buhari also commended the judiciary for “dispensing justice without fear or favour.”
He extended a hand of fellowship to those who were dissatisfied by the outcome of the election, and had gone to court, noting that it was within their democratic rights to do so.
Buhari added that with the pronouncement of the judiciary, “it is time for the country to move forward as one cohesive body, putting behind us, all bickering and potential distractions over an election in which Nigerians spoke clearly and resoundingly.”
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the president’s resounding victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Lawan said: “The judgment of the tribunal has again put a judicial seal on the mandate freely given to the president by the Nigerian people in the February 23 presidential election.”
Lawan urged the President to accept the affirmation of his election as a reminder of the confidence of Nigerians in his capacity to continue to lead Nigeria towards its manifest destiny of greatness.
The Senate President said the Nigerian people have great expectations from the Next Level Agenda of the President and further pledged the full cooperation of the National Assembly with the Executive in the pursuit of the best interest of the Nigerian people.
Lawan also commended the petitioners for using the judicial window prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in seeking redress for their grievances and urged them to join hands with the government and the Nigerian people in the important task of nation-building.
In the same vein, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has congratulated Buhari on his victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday.
The speaker also congratulated the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the victory and applauded the judiciary, especially members of the tribunal for doing its job without fear or favour.
In a statement he personally signed, Speaker Gbajabiamila felicitated with Nigerians and the entire members of the APC family nationwide for the victory.
“I am elated to congratulate the President on his victory at the tribunal. Ab initio, I had no doubt whatsoever, in my mind that the President would come out victorious, considering the massive support Nigerians gave the President before and during the February 23 presidential election.
“May I also congratulate the Nigerian judiciary for living up to expectations by doing the right thing. With this judgment, a precedent has been set for electoral matters in the country,” the speaker said.
APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in his reaction, described the judgment as victory for democracy, saying that the party is ready for the opposition party if it decides to go to the apex court.
He noted that the judgment has proven allegations that 2019 election was manipulated and that the President does not have certificate as mere accusation to tarnish the image of the President.
“We have never had the doubt that our president won the election. Let me appreciate PDP for going to court. Rather than resorting to self-help, chose to submit themselves to the judicial process to air their grievances,” he added.
Also, the All Progressives Congress (APC) hailed the judgment of the tribunal dismissing in its entirety the petition filed by the PDP and Atiku Abubakar, saying the verdict is a legal affirmation of Buhari’s election victory.
In a statement in Abuja by APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa – Onilu, the party congratulated the President, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, all members of the party and indeed, all well -meaning Nigerians on the landmark judgment.
“The APC congratulates the judiciary for refusing to succumb to the opposition party’s subterfuge. We note the painstaking efforts and thoroughness of the justices of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in arriving at their decision. Today’s judgment, no doubt, would go down in the annals of our nation as the longest and detailed, spanning almost 10 hours.
“The judgment by the five-member panel validates the decision of most Nigerians to do away with the past as expressed in their overwhelming votes in the 2019 elections.
“The PDP and Atiku’s petition was largely hinged on the educational qualification of President Buhari and tales of an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) server and allegations of electronic transmission of election results. This was rightly dismissed by the tribunal for lacking in merit.
“From the outset, our party was not perturbed over the PDP and Atiku’s petition, which will go down in Nigeria’s history as the most frivolous in the history of Election Petition. In fact our position has now been justified that the PDP and Atiku’s petition was a complete waste of time. In their puerile efforts, they insisted on taking the country on a circus and wild goose chase.
“Going forward, APC’s victory at the presidential poll and the election tribunal represents our collective desire as a people to remain focused on the progressive growth and development of our country’s economy, fight against corruption, and providing security.
“Consequently, we have taken a bold step by rescuing our nation from the satanic era of PDP, when our collective interests were being corruptly traded among a few pillagers.
“We note, unfortunately, the continuous efforts being made by the unpatriotic elements in PDP, having held our country down for nearly two decades, to truncate our movement towards greatness.
“We however, remain resolute in this journey being ably led by President Muhammadu Buhari. The APC administration would lead this country to the fulfilment of its destiny,” the APC said.
The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) similarly commended members of the tribunal for not being deterred by threats and intimidation from the PDP and its agents to taint its sense of justice.
The group in a statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke respectively said that they were expecting nothing less than the outright dismissal of the petition like the panel members did.
“It was glaring to everyone, aside from PDP elements, that the petition challenging the overwhelming electoral victory of President Muhammadu Buhari was not only frivolous, but also useless as Festus Keyamo famously said soon after the case was filed.
“However, the tribunal has now further shown how ridiculous the electoral challenge was and made it clear that the President was duly qualified to contest in the February 23, 2019 election in the first place, on the basis of educational qualification and professional attainment.
The group further urged all opposition elements who claimed to be awaiting the tribunal’s verdict before recognising the President to keep their promise.
But, Atiku in his reaction to the judgment on his verified Instagram page, said that “it was a sad day for Nigeria, but l am not said.
“Rather, I am proud of myself and many other Nigerians who stood by my side, the true winner and on the side of justice. I hope we made our generation proud. I love you all.’’
The PDP in rejecting the judgment of the tribunal described it as provocative, barefaced subversion of justice and direct assault on the integrity of the nation’s justice system.
The party expressed shock that the tribunal failed to point to justice despite the flawless evidence laid before it, showing that President Buhari was not only unqualified to contest the election, but also did not score the majority of valid votes at the polls.
Stating the position of the party in a statement on Wednesday, its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said “the PDP finds as bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Muhammadu Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.
“The party is also rudely shocked that the court took over the roles of the respondents’ lawyers who clearly abandoned their pleadings by refusing to call evidence in defence of the petition. The court raked up all manner of excuses to make up for the yawning gaps occasioned by the total absence of any evidence from the respondents.
“Nigerians and the international community watched in utter disbelief when the tribunal ruled that one needs not provide a copy or certified true copy of educational certificate such individual claimed to possess, contrary to established proof of claims of certification.
“The party notes as strange that the court even went ahead to provide rationalisations in favour of President Buhari, even when all hard facts before it show that he did not possess the claimed educational certificate and that the army was not in possession of his WAEC certificate as claimed in the affidavit he deposed to in his nomination form.
“The PDP also described as shocking that the court approved the flawed declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the election despite evidence to show the perpetration of illegalities, manipulations, alterations and subtraction of valid votes freely given to Atiku Abubakar by Nigerians.
“Indeed, the pervading melancholic atmosphere across our nation since the verdict is a direct indication that the judgment has not fulfilled the desires and expectations of Nigerians.”
The PDP however, encouraged Nigerians to remain calm and not to lose hope or surrender to despondency or self-help, as its lawyers are upbeat in obtaining justice at the Supreme Court.
Similarly, the coalition of opposition parties under the umbrella of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) described the ruling as provocative, insulting and judgment turned upside down.
The coalition said the judgment is a shameful ratification of electoral fraud, leadership incompetence and audacious imposition of an unfit leader on Nigerians.
By the judgment, the CUPP held that the nation is the loser, not Atiku Abubakar or the opposition.
Spokesperson of CUPP, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, said the tribunal has lost the rare opportunity presented to it by Atiku’s petition to put an end to electoral fraud.
“By their judgment today, majority of Nigerians who had believed though erroneously, that the judiciary is indeed, independent have been brazenly awakened to the fact and correct belief that the Presidency has successfully hijacked the judiciary and Nigerians can only expect judgments and not justice,” he added.
Reacting to the judgment, a member of Atiku’s legal team, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), vowed that his client will appeal the judgment.
According to him, it is not yet Uhuru for the respondents, adding that “we will make democracy firmer and stronger so that when Nigerians vote; they will know that the votes will not only be counted, but that the votes will also count”.
He said that the decision is not only about PDP or Atiku, but about Nigeria and Nigerians, about democracy and about the nation’s readiness to deepen democracy.
“Most importantly, the judiciary itself is on trial. I am a great defender of judiciary in terms of having its own independence and in terms of being allowed to do its job without being intimidated by the legislative or the executive.
“I am an ardent believer in the fact that when the judiciary is strong, then democracy is strong, and that is the reason this matter will not stop here,” he stated.
Ozekhome insisted that everything about the judgment is worrisome, stating that “everything and all things are wrong with the judgment and we shall appeal it.
“That we are appealing to the Supreme Court is as sure and certain as death. The only most certain thing in our lives is death and our appealing this decision is as certain as death.
“We shall challenge many things in the judgment. We will challenge the misapplication of the electoral act. We will look at misevaluation and even non-evaluation of critical evidences which would have swung the case in favour of the petitioners.
“So, it is not yet Uhuru for the respondents and we would rather say that this is the beginning of the struggle to liberate Nigerians.”