Presidential Election: Tribunal reserves judgment in HDP petition against Buhari

The Presidential Election Tribunal Monday reserved judgment in petition filed by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) challenging the conduct of the February 23 presidential election and the announcement of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner by the Independent National Electoral ComImission (INEC). 

The tribunal decision to reserve judgment was sequel to the adoption of the parties’ final written addresses to establish their cases as well as defense in the petition.

During the HDP adoption of the final address on Monday, its lead counsel Chukwunoyerem Njoku urged the tribunal to set aside the election of February 23 on the ground that the electoral body did not follow conditions precedent in the Electoral Act, 2010 before postponing the election earlier scheduled for February 16.

Njoku informed the tribunal that due to the fact that INEC did not follow the condition precedent before postponing the election constitutionally, a referendum was conducted in line with the law and that the presidential candidate of the HDP Chief Albert Ambrose Owuru emerged winner of the referendum with over fifty million votes.

Njoku submitted further that Nigerian citizens participated in the February 16 2019 referendum as required by law and urged the tribunal to nullify the declaration of president Buhari by INEC as president and in his place restore Owuru as the authentic winner.

The counsel argued that Buhari cannot be said to be president on the strength February 23 election because the purported election was without merit.

Specifically, the two petitioners who described the election as unlawful, unconstitutional and illegal prayed the tribunal to void the poll and declared them as the lawful winners of the 2019 Presidential election on the strength of the February 16 referendum.

Meanwhile, Buhari’s counsel, represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun, has urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that it is frivolous, baseless and lacking in merit.

Olanipekun told the tribunal that the petitioners did not in any way adduce evidence on how the referendum was conducted and who conducted it in line with the provisions of the law.

Arguing further, Olanipekun told the tribunal that he had carefully studied the final address of the HDP and its presidential candidate and found that there was nowhere in the address that they made any case against President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, INEC’s lead counsel Yunus Ustaz Usman had while adopting his final address urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost to serve as a deterrent to those who may wish to file frivolous and baseless petitions in the 2023 elections.

In his arguments, Usman pointed out that the petition lacked merit because INEC conducted an election known to law and not a referendum, saying that the claims of the two petitioners are strange to the electoral umpire and the law itself.

He therefore urged the tribunal to uphold the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 lawful presidential election.

Arguing in the same vein, the All Progressive Congress (APC) counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi while making his final address equally demanded for a dismissal of the petition for lacking in merit and wholly misconceived by the two petitioners.

The Justice Mohammed Garba–led tribunal thereafter reserved judgment in the petition at a date to be communicated to parties in the matter.

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