- Insists PDP’s candidate not a Nigerian
- Panel defers ruling in opposition’s request to inspect INEC server, card reader
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Thursday asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, to strike out the petition by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It said the petition was defective, ab initio, because the former vice-president and PDP candidate “is not a Nigerian by birth.”
Atiku and the PDP had in the petition, urged the tribunal to declare him as the lawful winner of the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
Counsel to the APC, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), called on the tribunal to declare Atiku ineligible to run for the presidency while responding to the petitioners’ motion seeking the striking out of APC’s reply to the petition.
He said: “My Lord, I am opposing this application on the qualification of the first petitioner (Abubakar). I am standing by the proof we have supplied in our reply.
“The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February 23 presidential election was not qualified to contest the election in the first place.
“I therefore, pray the tribunal to strike out the petitioners’ application for lacking in competence and merit.’’
The APC, which is the third respondent in the petition, reiterated its submission that Atiku was not a citizen of Nigeria by birth and ought not to have even been allowed in the first place to contest the election.
Counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Chris Uche (SAN), argued that historic records showed that the former vice-president was a citizen of Nigeria by birth.
He, therefore, urged the panel to disregard Fagbemi’s submission by granting the application.
Tribunal Defers Ruling in Atiku, PDP’s Request to Inspect INEC Server, Card Reader
Also Thursday, the tribunal reserved ruling on the application filed by the PDP and Atiku for access to inspect the server and data of smart card readers used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the February 23 presidential election.
Justice Mohammed Garba, who chairs the five-member tribunal, reserved date for ruling in the application shortly after counsel in the matter adopted and argued their briefs of argument in the suit.
Garba said the panel would communicate the date of the ruling to the counsel once they were ready.
In moving the motion for inspection of the INEC server and other electoral materials, one of the lead counsel to Atiku and the PDP, Uche, said the request was essential to their petition challenging the return of Buhari in the election.
The petitioners, in their petition, had stated that by figures obtained from the INEC’s server, they and not Buhari and the APC won the presidential election.
According to the figures allegedly obtained from the server, Atiku said he scored 18, 356,732 votes as against that of Buhari, whom he said scored 16, 741,430.
Uche told the tribunal that the inspection of the server and data was necessary in the interest of justice, transparency and neutrality on the part of the first respondents, INEC.
Responding, lawyer to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), opposed the application for inspection because the Court of Appeal had on March 6 refused the prayers of the petitioners to inspect INEC server and smart card readers.
He added that the court, having refused the prayers, lacked jurisdiction to revisit the same application.
Usman, therefore, urged the tribunal to dismiss the application, adding that, “we do not have server.”
The lead counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and that of the APC, Fagbemi, also made similar arguments in opposing the application for inspection.
Olanipekun told the tribunal that it lacks jurisdiction to overrule itself while Fagbemi urged the tribunal to be wary of making an order, which it is not capable of enforcing, because INEC has said it has no server.
Consequently, Justice Garba said the ruling in the application would be reserved to a date to be communicated to the parties and adjourned the pre-hearing of Atiku and PDP’s petition till June 24.
Earlier, the tribunal heard the motions filed by INEC, Buhari and APC urging it to dismiss the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Oworu, for being incompetent and being an abuse of court processes.
Olanipekun had said there was no petition filed by the party before the tribunal because what was served on the respondents was a petition against referendum, which the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain.
The tribunal, however, reserved ruling till a date to be communicated to parties in the suit and adjourned the pre-hearing of the HDP’s petition till June 23.
Atiku and his party, are among the three other political parties and their presidential candidates currently seeking the nullification of Buhari’s victory at the presidential poll.
The fourth petitioner, Geff Ojinaka and his party, the Coalition for Change (C4C), had without reason on June 10, applied to withdraw their petition against the election of Buhari.
The application, which was not objected to by the respondents in the suit, was accordingly dismissed, leaving that of the PDP, Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and the Peoples Democratic Movement and that of their candidates.