HDP Asks Tribunal to Stop Buhari’s Inauguration

Muhammadu Buhari

•Tinubu commends president on new Democracy Day

Alex Enumah and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Hope Democratic Party (HDP) has asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Abuja, to stop the swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2019 as president, pending the hearing and determination of its petition against the outcome of the 2019 presidential election.

The HDP in a motion on notice filed at the tribunal said the request is predicated on the need to preserve the subject matter of its petition and prevent Buhari from foisting a fait accompli and state of hopelessness on the court and render the petition before the tribunal nugatory.

The HDP and its presidential candidate in the February 23 presidential election, Chief Albert Owuru, submitted that once there is a question on the validity of election of any person, the person is not competent to take oath of office or assume the seat of power.

The party, therefore, prayed the tribunal for an order stopping the president from presenting himself for inauguration on May 29 or any other date until all petitions challenging his election have been fully settled.

The party also prayed for another order stopping the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammad, from inaugurating or administering oath of office and oath of allegiance on Buhari until all court actions against him are determined.

In the motion signed by Mike Okoye, the two petitioners said that they are challenging validity of Buhari’s election on grounds of non-compliance with the electoral laws.
They further averred that a petition dated March 7, 2019 had been dully served on Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), questioning the return of Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential poll, adding that parties had exchanged pleadings.

The two petitioners claimed that in spite of the pendency and scheduled hearing of their petition against Buhari’s election, Buhari has been making frantic efforts and preparations to be sworn in and inaugurated on May 29 by inviting the CJN and the general public.
They therefore insisted that restraining order by the tribunal is appropriate to preserve the subject matter of their petition and prevent Buhari from foisting a fait acompli and state of hopelessness on the Tribunal and render their petition nugatory.

“The law is settled that once the question of the validity of election of any person is challenged as to whether he is validly elected or not, that person is not competent to take office or assume the seat of power.

“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prohibits and forbids that Nigeria or any part thereof be governed or taken over by any person or group of persons except in accordance with the provisions of the constitution “, they averred.

The tribunal had last Wednesday at its inaugural sitting adjourned to May 14 for a pre-hearing of the petitioners’ case; however, when the matter was called, counsel to the petitioners, Oliver Eya, sought to move the application but respondents in the matter claimed that they have not been served.

Buhari’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, that of INEC, Yunus Ustaz SAN and that of APC, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, told the tribunal that they will need time to respond to the application when served.
The President of the Court of Appeal, who is also the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, after taking arguments from parties fixed May 22 for hearing of the motion.

Meanwhile, Buhari, through his counsel, Wole Olanipekun SAN, has filed a motion praying the tribunal to dismiss the petition of the HDP on the grounds that it was not competent in law.
Olanipekun told the five-man panel that what the party is challenging in the petition is a referendum conducted on February 23, adding that in law, what INEC conducted was an election and not a referendum.
Justice Bulkachuwa, in a short ruling announced that all applications in respect of the HDP petition will be heard on May 22.
HDP, in his petition marked CS/PEPC/001/2019 had joined INEC and APC as second and third respondents in the petition.

PDP: Holding Ceremonies on June 12 Won’t Legitimise Rigged Election

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has told President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) that moving its planned Presidential inauguration from May 29 to June 12, the Democracy Day, will not confer any form of legitimacy to the outcome of the rigged 2019 presidential election.

The PDP in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was clear that the Buhari presidency and the APC, being tormented by the guilt of violating the electoral processes, could no longer boldly approach the oath book on May 29, due to the burden of illegitimacy and now seeks refuge in the sanctity of June 12, the Democracy Day.

The main opposition party insisted that inviting world leaders to the inauguration cannot confer international recognition for a disputed mandate.
Ologbondiyan said: “The Buhari presidency and the APC from our recent history have demonstrated that they are totally averse to democracy. They should therefore steer clear of our Democracy Day, having violated our entire democratic ethos in manipulating the Presidential elections and upturning the mandate of the people; the same injustice, which Chief MKO Abiola, the symbol of June 12, fought and died for.
“Chief Abiola stood and died for democracy. Any attempt therefore to schedule any event related to the outcome of the rigged 2019 Presidential election on June 12 would be an open desecration of the sanctity of the Democracy Day and a direct assault to the sensibilities of Nigerians. “

Tinubu Commends President on New Democracy Day

In a related development, APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, has commended Buhari for taking an important step towards fully recognising June 12 as Democracy Day.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed had on Monday said the Federal Executive Council had decided to move the second term inauguration ceremonies to June 12 while a low-key ceremony would be held on May 29 to comply with constitutional provision which recognises May 29 as the take-off date for the president.

In a statement yesterday by his media assistant, Mr. Tunde Rahman, Tinubu said Buhari and the federal government deserve commendation.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari deserves our thanks and congratulations for taking another important step towards fully recognising June 12 as Democracy Day in our country. The government moved the second term inauguration ceremonies to June 12 while events on May 29 would now be low-key swearing-in ceremonies in order to comply with the constitutional requirements covering the length of term for elected office-holders.

“By this wise yet visionary decision, the president has scored double: first he has accorded respect to the Constitution, which recognises May 29 as the date to inaugurate new terms of office, while at the same time ensuring the country moves on the rightful path to formalising June 12 as new Democracy Day. This decision soundly balances current legal requirements with the quest for political justice.”

The process to accord June 12 recognition began last year when the federal government officially named June 12 as Democracy Day by an Executive Order. The president also recognised the winner of the June 12 election, Bashorun Moshood Abiola, as a past president and awarded the highest honour in the line, the GCFR, while Abiola’s former running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, was recognised as a former vice president and bestowed with the GCON award.