Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the just concluded February 23 poll, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party, Tuesday formally kick-started the legal process challenging the conduct and outcome of the election which produced President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for a second term of four years.
Atiku, in an ex-parte motion filed at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, asked for various orders of the court to allow him access all documents used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the poll.
The ex-parte application, filed by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, had INEC, President Buhari and the APC as respondents.
The ex-parte motion is praying for an order compelling INEC to allow them unhindered access to the register and other vital documents used in the conduct of the election.
In the ex-parte motion dated March 4 and filed March 5, Atiku and the PDP prayed the appellate court serving as the presidential election petition tribunal to compel the electoral body to allow their agents scan and make photocopies of vital documents used in the last presidential election for the purpose of proving their case before the tribunal.
The ex-parte motion is supported with a 12-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Colonel Austin Akobundu (rtd.), a director of contact and mobilisation in the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign council.
No date was fixed for hearing of the motion.
INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, had while announcing the results in Abuja, said Buhari polled 15, 191, 847 votes to defeat Atiku, his main rival, who scored 11, 225, 978 votes.
Although notable Nigerians and groups pleaded with the former vice president and his party against challenging Buhari’s victory, the duo said any decision not to challenge the outcome of the poll would amount to not justifying the confidence of Nigerians in them.
They said their desire to challenge the conduct and outcome of the election at the tribunal was hinged on the grounds that the poll was heavily manipulated and rigged for the declared
Specifically, the grouse of Atiku and PDP was that the results collated by them from polling units across the country were quite different from those recorded for the declared winners by INEC.
PDP protests at INEC
In a related development, the PDP Tuesday carried its protest to the INEC Headquarters, saying the commission violated electoral laws in the process leading to the final results of the presidential polls.
The protesters were led by the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and other National Working Committee (NWC) members.
The party stated its grievances in a petition “Cases of Infractions and deliberate violations of the electoral law and guidelines,” addressed to INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu and dated Monday March 4, 2019.
Secondus said the protest was a peaceful one to register their displeasure on the outcome of the presidential poll.
“We want to place on records and bring to your attention the very obvious and noticeable infractions and violations of the electoral law and the regulations/guidelines regulating the 2019 general elections which have very negative implications on the credibility, transparency and integrity of the entire electoral processes, particularly the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections.
In the petition jointly signed the PDP chairman and Secretary, Senator Ibrahim Tsauri, the party said: “The infractions and deliberate violations include but not limited to the following: the non-usage or selective enforcement of the Smart Card Reader (SCR) machines across the country.
“We observed with regrets that the usage of the SCR machines were enforced strategically in the South-south, South-east and the North-central zones of the country which are essentially PDP strongholds. This is radically different from what transpired in the North-west, North-east and the South-west which were estimated as the APC strongholds. This is quite contrary to the provisions of Paragraph 10(a) & (b) of the regulations and guidelines governing the 2019 general elections and all the assurances you, Professor Yakub Mahmood, frequently gave up to the last hours before the elections.
“The deliberate non-deployment of the Electronic Collation System (E-Collation) for the elections results from the units, through the ward centres to the presidential collation centre in Abuja as provided for in the 2019 electoral regulations and guidelines made by you, and as contained in your several official press statements is very suspect.
“The unconstitutional deployment of the armed forces, especially soldiers and police for the illegitimate purposes to harassing, intimidating, suppressing of leaders of the PDP and suppression of voters in PDP strongholds across the country which are very well known to you.
“The use of these same security agents by the government to harass and intimidate Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and certain INEC’s National Commissioners for the sake of forcing them to declare votes for the APC’s candidates throughout the country have been officially or otherwise brought to your knowledge by the affected officers who even threatened to resign from their positions, yet you have decided to keep mute over it in a way portraying outright conspiracy and collusion of yourself and the commission with the APC government perpetrators.
“In places like Lagos, Rivers, Nassarawa, Abia, Benue, Plateau, Ondo, Osun states et al, results of duly conducted elections were illegally cancelled, especially in the PDP-dominated areas to reduce the margin of victory in those states in favour of APC candidates.
“Is it not surprising to you that Lagos state with over six million voters can only return less than one million votes? This was the case in virtually all PDP-dominated states where voter’s suppression was deployed as a major strategy by you and the APC government in active collaboration of some of your unscrupulous RECs and staffers.
“We have taken time to chronicle the above fundamental deliberate violations and infractions of the electoral law, regulations and guidelines and all known canons of electoral best practices by your commission in obvious complicity and collaboration with APC and security agencies to rig the elections and rob our party of victory.”
“As we inch towards Saturday, March 9, 2019 elections, you must do everything to right these grave anomalies to save yourself and the commission from this woeful embarrassment as you may go down in history as the worst chairman of INEC in our history,” the party further said.
Responding on behalf of the commission, INEC National Commissioner (Legal), May Agbamuche-Mbu thanked the protesters for their “civilised approach,” and said the commission was always ready to do a professional job.
Atiku on course –Group
Meanwhile, Project-2019 (P2019), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) has said the decision by Atiku to challenge the election outcome in court would improve the electoral process and deepen Nigeria’s democracy.
Convener of the group, Mr Wale Ogunade, said this Tuesday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
Ogunade said: “To me, it is good that Atiku is going to court because it will enhance our judicial system, add more to our jurisprudence and deepen our democracy.
“Buhari went to court about three times after he lost to PDP in previous elections. And as lawyers, we use some of those issues raised during the trial in court.
“We cite Buhari’s case against Obasanjo, Buhari against Yar’Adua and Buhari against Jonathan. And issues on jurisdiction, compliance to electoral law or time of filing or conduct of the election itself, were raised and addressed.”
No cause for alarm – Buhari campaign
Meanwhile, the Buhari campaign team has said it was not opposed to the decision by the opposition to challenge its candidate’s victory at the tribunal.
Spokesperson of the team, Festus Keyamo, SAN, said this in a statement Tuesday.
The statement read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to some news item and posts on social media reporting that we wrote a letter to some international bodies to prevail on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar not to proceed to court to challenge the result of the 2019 presidential election.”