The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal Wednesday ruled on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the February 23 general election. PATRICK ANDREW highlights few key points of the ruling.
Atiku not a Nigerian by birth
Tribunal struck out APC’s argument that Atiku was not qualified to contest the last presidential election because he is allegedly not a Nigerian by birth.
It ruled that its power does not include determining the qualification of a petitioner in an election dispute, adding that its powers was to determine whether a person elected to the office of the president was validly elected and not to query the qualification of the petitioners to have contested the election, whose outcome was being queried.
The court said the APC ought to have filed a cross-petition if it sought to challenge Atiku’s qualification to have contested the election.
Tribunal on Buhari’s educational qualifications
The tribunal ruled that President Muhammadu Buhari was educationally qualified to contest for president. The court in its ruling also said that one’s ability to read, write, and communicate in English is seen in law as being equivalent to School Certificate level.
The tribunal, in a lead judgement that was delivered by its chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, held that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, failed to prove that Buhari lacked the requisite academic qualifications to contest the February 23 presidential poll.
It held that the Buhari’s curriculum vitae that was tendered by the petitioners themselves, “contained impressive credentials” that qualified him to contest the presidential election “even if he tendered primary school certificate”.
The tribunal maintained that evidence of the petitioners proved that Buhari was not only “highly qualified, but eminently qualified” to contest the election. It said the fact that Buhari did not attach his certificates to the Form CF001 he tendered before the INEC, was not a ground to draw a conclusion that he does not have them.
It said there was no evidence that Buhari was not qualified in line with provisions of sections 131, 137 and 138 of the Constitution, adding that the petitioners failed to prove that West African School Certificate, WASC, was not in existence as at 1961 when the 2nd Respondent (Buhari) joined the Army.
Besides, the tribunal held that statement by the former spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Olajide Olaniyi, which the petitioners relied on to insist that Buhari lacked basic educational qualifications, was misconstrued.
It equally held that though the petitioners claimed that Brig Gen Olaniyi had in the said statement, denied that Buhari’s certificate was with the Army, he was however not called to testify as a witness before the tribunal.
The tribunal noted that Brig Gen Olaniyi had in the said statement, merely asserted that the Army was not with Buhari’s original certificates, admitting however that he (Buhari) got six credits in English language, Geography, History, Hausa, Health Science and Literature.
The tribunal wondered how Brig Gen Olaniyi knew about the subjects Buhari passed in his 1961 WASC if there was no credential in his Army file (Form 119a).
“The only reasonable inference is that the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) presented his WASC to Army”, Justice Garba held, saying “it will be incredible to hold in the face of exhibit P-24, that the 2nd Respondent does not possess qualification to contest for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as stipulated in section 131 of the Constitution”.
According to the tribunal, since the petitioners failed to produce Brig Gen Olaniyi as a witness, the statement he issued with respect to Buhari’s certificate which was admitted in evidence, lacked probative value and deemed to have been dumped on the tribunal.
More so, the tribunal held that whereas section 137 (1) stipulated conditions under which a person could be disqualified, section 318(1) defined what School Certificate or its equivalent means as provided in section 131.
It listed credentials that can qualify a presidential candidate to include the Grade 2 Teachers Certificate, education up to Secondary school, Primary 6 Certificate or it’s equivalent, service in a public sector acceptable to INEC for a minimum of 10 years, as well as the ability read and write in the English language.
The tribunal said there was evidence before it that Buhari finished both his primary and secondary education in 1956 and 1961 respectively before he joined the Army.
It said there was also evidence that Buhari attended military training from 1961 to 1963, saying “it was established beyond doubt that the 2nd Respondent had his educational qualifications”.
The tribunal held that neither the constitution nor the Electoral Act required Buhari to attach any of his certificates to the Form CF 001 before he could be adjudged to have met the pre-requisite for qualification.
It stressed that since INEC’s screening process required candidates to depose to an affidavit to attest to the veracity of the information contained in the Form CF 001, there was no need for the presentation of the actual certificates. The tribunal, therefore, resolved the issue in Buhari’s favour.
Results were collated manually -Justice Garba
The tribunal declared that there is no evidence that INEC transmitted the results of the last presidential election electronically to any server.
It held that the petitioners failed to prove the existence of an INEC server or that the electoral commission transmitted results electronically, adding there is no law in place in Nigeria that allows electronic transmission of results or the transmission of result using card reader.
Justice Garba averred that “the evidence of the five witnesses who claimed that the results were transmitted electronically has no bearing on the requirement of proof expected of the petitioners. It is like a drop in the ocean.
“Electronic voting or transmission of results has no statutory backing. The mode of voting and collation of results have not changed from being manual since 2015,” says tribunal.
Justice Garba recalls the 2015 judgments of the Supreme Court which held that card readers were only recognised for use to authenticate the owner of the voter card. This issue is also about whether election results were electronically transmitted. The tribunal holds that the manual provided by INEC did not provide for electronic transmission of results.
Election marred by irregularities
Under these issues, the petitioners alleged the election was marred by irregularities, misuse of scarce resources, manipulation of result sheets, overvoting, wrongful recording of results, intimidation of voters among others in 11 “focal states”. The petitioners had adduced 11 focal states namely: Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Yobe and Zamfara states.
The tribunal says the allegations are criminal in nature and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The issues are whether or not the election was marred by corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act.
However, the tribunal says the petitioners failed to discharge the burden of proof that Buhari was not elected by a majority of lawful votes and resolved against petitioners. In particular, the tribunal says “Card reader machine has not replaced the voter register. A petitioner must rely on the card reader to prove non-accreditation or overvoting,” says tribunal.
The tribunal rules that the evidence and report of PW59, witness 59 of the petitioners, cannot be relied on that there was indeed INEC server or servers, as the case may be, into which the results of the presidential election were transmitted.
Tribunal unanimously dismisses INEC’s motion asking Vice President Osinbajo to be joined in the petition, ruling that a vice presidential candidate is not a necessary party in an election petition but an appendage of the presidential candidate who nominated him
Tribunal dismisses INEC’s motion arguing that Atiku’s lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, is not a legal practitioner called to the Nigerian Bar – Tribunal refuses INEC’s request to dismiss Atiku’s prayer seeking Buhari’s disqualification on the ground that he was not qualified to contest the election
The tribunal ruled on the allegations of police and military interference, harassment and intimidation and ballot stuffing among others, filed by Atiku by striking out the application for non-joinder of the parties who have been accused
Tribunal dismisses Buhari’s application that Atiku was not qualified to file the petition challenging his election, ruling that Atiku is qualified to file the petition.
Tribunal dismisses Atiku’s application accusing Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of inducing voters with the TraderMoni scheme, ruling that it does not have jurisdiction over the matter.
It rules that its power does not include determining the qualification of a petitioner in an election dispute, adding that its powers was to determine whether a person elected to the office of the president was validly elected and not to query the qualification of the petitioners to have contested the election, whose outcome was being queried.
The court said the APC ought to have filed a cross-petition if it sought to challenge the qualification of the 1st petitioner (Atiku) to have contested the election.