The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar may submit his election petition challenging the electoral victory of President Muhammadu Buhari to the Presidential Election Tribunal in Abuja today.
Senior lawyers who are putting finishing touches to the petition, hinted yesterday that the team is being cautioned not to fall into legal traps that may create bottle neck and unnecessary objections as to the jurisdiction of the tribunal if the petition was not filed within 14 days.
President Muhammadu Buhari was declared winner on Wednesday February 27, of the general election by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but the alleged infractions the petitioners are seeking to challenge were committed on Saturday February 23, 2019.
Atiku last Thursday inaugurated a legal team headed by Livy Uzoukwu , a Senior Advocate Nigeria to challenge the result of last Saturday’s presidential election. But the 14 days allowed by the Constitution started counting from February 27, 2019 .
The Independent National Electoral Commission had on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 declared Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the election.
Mr Abubakar rejected the result, accusing the government of using the military to intimidate voters and suppress PDP strongholds.
He also alleged the connivance of INEC officials, security agents and the ruling party to manufacture bogus figures and falsify the returns from the polling units.
A legal expert, said on Monday that effort to challenge the conduct and result of the election will go to no issue if by next week’s Tuesday no petition is received from the candidate or his political party the Peoples Democratic Party.
According to the legal luminary :[The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (the Fourth Alteration No.21) ACT ,2017] is specific of what is required following the alteration of section 185 of the Constitution thus.
1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (in this Act referred to as “the Principal Act”) is altered as set out in this Act.
2. Section 285 of the Principal Act is further altered by –(a) Substituting for marginal note, a new “marginal note” –
“Time for determination of pre-election matters, establishment of Election Tribunals and time for determination of election petitions”
(b) Substituting for subsection (8), a new subsection “(8)” –
“(8) Where a preliminary objection or any other interlocutory issue touching on the jurisdiction of the tribunal or court in any pre-election matter or on the competence of the petition itself is raised by a party, the tribunal or court shall suspend its ruling and deliver it at the stage of final judgment”; and
(c) Inserting, after subsection (8), new subsections “(9)” – “(14) –
“(9) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, every pre-election matter shall be filed not later than 14 days from the date of the occurrence of the event, decision or action complained of in the suit.
(10) A court in every pre-election matter shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of filing of the suit.
(11) An appeal from a decision in a pre-election matter shall be filed within 14 days from the date of delivery of the judgment appealed against
(12) An appeal from a decision of a court in a pre-election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of filing of the appeal.
(13) An election tribunal or court shall not declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all stages of the election.
(14) For the purpose of this section, “pre-election matter” means any suit by –
(a) an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of the Electoral Act or any of the National Assembly regulating the conduct of primaries of political parties and the provisions of the guidelines of a political party for conduct of party primaries has not been complied with by a political party in respect of the selection or nomination of candidates for an election;
(b) an aspirant challenging the actions, decisions or activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission in respect of his participation in an election or who complains that the provisions of the Electoral Act or any of the National Assembly regulating elections in Nigeria has not been complied with by the Independent National Electoral Commission in respect of the selection or nomination of candidates and participation in an election; and
(c) a political party challenging the actions, decisions or activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission disqualifying its candidate from participating in an election or a complaint that the provisions of the Electoral Act or any other applicable law has not been complied with by the Independent Electoral Commission in respect of the nomination of candidates of political parties for an election, timetable for an election, registration of voters and other activities of the Commission in respect of preparation for an election”
An Abuja based legal practitioner Mr.Pius Efulue said the Fourth Alteration No.21) ACT ,2017 to the Constitution of Federal Republic Nigeria 1999 has sent hundreds of pre – election matters to the dustbin.
He said except care is taken by petitioners and their counsel many of the post election petitions will be thrown out.