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Tribunal dismisses Atiku, PDP’s petition

The Presidential election petition tribunal has dismissed the petition by Atiku Abubakar and the PDP challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The court held, in the lead judgment by Justice Mohammed Garba, which has been supported by three of the five Justices of the tribunal so far, held that the petitiioners failed to prove their case.

Heavy Security

There is heavy security at the court of appeal, as judges are to deliver a ruling on the presidential election petition tribunal brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

All the parties in the suit had made their final submissions on August 21.

The PDP and its candidate are seeking to nullify the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 poll.

The five-man panel includes the Chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, Justice Peter Olabisi-Ige, Justice Abdul Aboki, Justice Joseph Ikyegh and Justice Samuel Oseji.

Justice Garba who is leading the panel addresses the court.

He said rulings on some applications would be given before the final judgement.

Dismisses INEC’s petition

The tribunal on dismissed INEC’s motion arguing that Atiku’s lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, is not a legal practitioner called to the Nigerian Bar.

It held that INEC’s allegation was unfounded and that Uzoukwu was indeed called to the Bar.

Strikeout portions of the petition by Atiku

In its second ruling, the tribunal upheld argument by INEC that it was wrong of the petitioners to raised criminal allegations of intimidation, harassment, corruption, against security personnel and some named persons, but who are not parties to the petition.

It said the court lacked the powers to entertain any criminal allegations against any person, who is not before it.

It proceeded to strike out portions of the petition by Atiku and the PDP, where such allegations are contained.

Earlier in the ruling, the court upheld the petitioners’ contention that, issues of qualification and whether or not a candidate supplied false personal information to INEC before the election, could be heard before or after an election.

Tribunal also refused INEC’s request to dismiss Atiku’s prayer seeking Buhari’s disqualification on the ground that he was not qualified to contest the election.

PDP’s star witness

The PEPC has acceded to the request by President Muhamadu Buari for the striking out of a witness statement written by former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, in support of the petition by Atiku Abubakar and the PDP.

Chidoka served as the National Collation Officer of the PDP during the last presidential election.

In its 4th ruling of the day, the court said the statement was incompetent, having been filed in violation of the provision of the Electoral Act.

The court also struck out some other documents and portions of some processes filed by the petitioners.

Government funds to induce voters

The tribunal also dismissed a contention by Buhari that Atiku was not qualified to file the petition challenging his election.

Garba, the lead judge, said he agreed with the submission of the respondent’s counsel that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the matter.

He added that the court lacked the power to try those accused of using government funds for purposes they were not appropriated for.

The tribunal strikes out some paragraphs of the petitions filed by the PDP and Atiku in which they accused Buhari, the second respondent, and Osinbajo of using government funds to induce voters.

In its 5th ruling of the day, the court equally upheld the argument by Buhari’s legal team, led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that it was wrong for the petitioners to raise such grievous allegation against Osinbajo without joining him as a party in the petition to enable him to defend himself against the allegation.

The PEPC has held that as against the argument by Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, President Muhammadu Buhari was eminently qualified to contest the last presidential election.

In its judgment, still being read, the court said evidence presented by the petitioners even showed that Buhari did not only has a West African School Certificate (WASC), he possesses more academic qualifications that make him even over qualified to contest the election.

The court also held that as against the petitioners’ claim, there is not iota of falsehood in the affidavit of personal information submitted to INEC by Buhar before the election.

On the issue of qualification, the court held that the petitioners failed to prove their claim that Buhari was not qualified to contest the election.

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