As the legal battle between the Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar and the All Progressives Congress’ Muhammadu Buhari continues over the presidential of February 23, 2019, Davidson Iriekpen Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale re-examine some of the claims by the petitioners before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its Presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on March 18, 2019, decided to challenge the outcome of the presidential election, which they claimed was laced with irregularities before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared President Muhamadu Buhari, winner of the election, having polled 15,191,847 votes to defeat Atiku whom it said scored 11, 262, 978 votes.
Atiku and his party however alleged that the election was rigged and therefore rejected the result, while also claiming that they won the election according to a result on INEC server.
The opposition party argued that the data obtained from INEC’s server showed that they polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari whom they claimed scored 16,741,430 votes.
But INEC told the tribunal that it had no server, where the election results were transmitted during the February 23 presidential election
Responding to allegations contained in the petition by Atiku and his party, Buhari and his party, also told the tribunal to discountenance Atiku’s submission that they won the election, adding also that he (Buhari) was qualified to contest the presidential election. But the petitioners insisted they had proof that Buhari did not possess minimum academic qualification of a secondary school certificate to contest for the Office of President of Nigeria. The PDP and its candidate therefore called in 62 witnesses and tendered plethora of documents including video evidence to prove their claims.
On the contrary, the APC and its candidate called in only seven witnesses and tendered few documents in defence of their victory at the polls. INEC and the APC added that they would be relying on the testimonies made by the petitioners’ witnesses during their cross examination.
The tribunal had on August 1, adjourned till August 21 for adoption of final addresses by parties shortly after the respondents closed their defence against the petition of Atiku and PDP.
The petitioners had in their final address filed on August 14, through their lead counsel, Dr. Levy Uzoukwu (SAN), asked the tribunal to nullify Buhari’s election since they have been able to produce evidence to the fact that Buhari was not qualified to contest the presidential election in the first place.
Besides, the petitioners had also in their final insisted that they had proved all allegations contained in their petition against the conduct of the February 23 presidential election conducted by INEC.
According to them, five major issues for determination by the five-member Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, headed by Justice Mohammed Garba included whether Buhari at the time of the election was qualified to contest the election.
“Whether Buhari submitted to INEC affidavit containing false information of fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election.
“Whether from the pleadings and evidence led it was established that Buhari was duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
“Whether the presidential election conducted by INEC on February 23 was invalid by reason of corrupt practices, and
“Whether the presidential election conducted by INEC on February 23 was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended, the Electoral Guidelines 2019 and manuals issued for the conduct of the election.”
Atiku and PDP in their 43 page final address, claimed to have established the fact that Buhari did not possess the requisite academic qualification for the position of President of Nigeria.
They argued that even Buhari’s own witnesses under cross examination admitted to the fact that Buhari did not possess a school certificate, being the basic requirements for contesting for the office of the president.
“We therefore submit that all the purported evidence led by the 2nd respondent (Buhari) to prove that he attended a secondary school or a primary school or that he attended some courses, is irrelevant because he did not rely on any of those purported qualifications in exhibit P1, he relied on primary school certificate, WASC and Officer Cadet.
The petitioners also argued that his attempt to prove that he could speak and write in the English language was equally futile, saying they were all irrelevant to his inability to produce his primary school certificate, secondary school certificate or WASC and his Officer Cadet qualification. They argued further that Officer Cadet was not a qualification or certificate under the Constitution and Electoral Act; nor was it known to any law.
On the purported Cambridge University certificate tendered by Buhari before the tribunal, the petitioners asked why, “it was easier for Buhari to go all the way to Cambridge in the United Kingdom to obtain a bogus documents that his own witnesses said was not a certificate, instead of just driving down the street in Abuja to the Army Headquarters or placing a phone call to the Secretary of the Military Board in Abuja to hurry over with his certificate or certificates.
“A comparison of the purported Cambridge Assessment International Education Certifying Statement of the purported West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate and a certified true copy of the purported confidential result sheet of the University of Cambridge West African School Certificate of 1961 for the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina reveals many discrepancies in the suppose result.
“One listed 8 subjects that the candidate therein mentioned one ‘Mohamed Buhari’ allegedly sat for, the other 6 subjects, both documents are therefore unreliable as both cannot be correct. The contradiction must count against the 2nd respondent”.
The petitioners also argued that another claim by Buhari that he attended, ‘Elementary School, Daura and Mai Aduwa 1948-52’ “Elementary School Daura is totally different from Mai Aduwa, their locations are totally different. He also claimed he entered Middle School Katsina in 1953, however, the petitioners submitted that by 1953, the Middle School system had been abolished in the northern region of Nigeria.”
On the claim that his certificates were with the military, the petitioners submitted that Buhari has not been able to prove the claim, “rather the petitioners’ evidence to the contrary was not contested nor challenged. The petitioners insisted that they have successfully proved that the Nigerian Army had denied being in possession of Buhari’s alleged certificates.”
The petitioners argued that, “One of the strongest evidence on the issue was given by the second respondent’s own witness, RW1, General Paul Tafa, (Rtd), who under cross examination by the 1st respondent (INEC), told the court firmly and unequivocally that the Army did not collect the certificates of military Officers and added: ‘there was no such thing”.
On the issue of rigging and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the petitioners said with the plethora of evidence tendered and witnesses called have been able to show to the tribunal that Buhari’s election was invalid.
They added that the analysis of results from 11 states showed how INEC in connivance with Buhari and the APC wrongly and unlawfully credited Buhari with votes not valid or lawful.
According to them, documents tendered before the tribunal showed huge discrepancies between collated results as contained in the tendered Certified True Copies of forms EC8A and polling units.
They further alleged that a total of 2,906,384 votes were cancelled across the country, while 2,698,773 Nigerians were disenfranchised. The petitioners said the two figures, when added, exceeded the 3, 928,869 differential between the votes as stated in INEC form EC8E.
In addition, they said they had evidence to show that INEC violated its own regulations and guidelines with respect to mandatory use of the smart card reader in the process of accreditation, which according to them, occasioned over-voting and thereby rendered the election null and void.
To this end, they prayed the tribunal to grant all the reliefs sought for in their petition. This is the state of the PDP petition and close of address as they wait for the August 21 resumption date of the tribunal.
…Issues for Determination
Now, from the extracts submitted by the PDP, Atiku and his running mate, Peter Obi on their final written address at the Presidential Tribunal in reply to the 2nd Respondent (Buhari)’s final written address, the petitioners are asking the Presidential Elections Tribunal to determine some of the issues raised therein.
Both the respondents and petitioners have submitted their defence, which would be adopted on Monday, August 21. According to the petitioners in paragraph 1.2 of the 2nd respondent’s reply, Buhari and APC made a bane and baseless allegation, claiming that their petition was based on “assumptions, speculations and conjectures” but failed to demonstrate same by not calling the requisite witnesses with verifiable evidence.
The petitioners also said it was rather instructive that the 2nd respondent, who called 7 witnesses, RW1 – RW7, abruptly closed his case in a vain glorious effort to stop the continuous and grave but irredeemable damage to his case by his witnesses under cross examination.
In the submitted address, Atiku through his lawyers said, “That was like bolting the stable after the horse had clearly galloped out of it”.
In view of this, the Atiku’s lawyers asked the tribunal to determine the following Issues. *Whether the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election. *Whether the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) submitted to the 1st Respondent (INEC) affidavits containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election. *Whether from the pleadings and evidence led it was established that the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) was elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
*Whether the Presidential election conducted by the 1st Respondent (INEC) on the 23rd February 2019 was invalid by reasons of corrupt practices. *Whether the presidential election conducted by the 1st Respondent (INEC) on the 23rd February 2019 was invalid by reasons of non-compliance with the electoral act 2010 (as amended) and the electoral guidelines 2019 and the manuals issued for the conduct of the elections.
In the written address, the PDP presidential candidate and his running mate, presented arguments in support of the issues 1 and 2. The point to be determined, therefore, is that the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) does not posses the certificates relating to qualifications, which he claimed in his form cf001.
The 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) had listed his educational credentials in proof of his qualification to contest the election in the said form, which he then submitted to the 1st Respondent (INEC). The qualifications claimed by the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) were: (a) First Leaving Certificate; (b) West African School Certificate (WASC) and Officer Cadet (Whatever that means).
None of the alleged certificates was attached to exhibit P1. The Petitioners submit that the 2nd Respondent was not qualified to contest the presidential election, because the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) failed to satisfy the mandatory requirements of section 131 (d) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which provides that: a person shall be qualified for election into the office of President if “(d) he has been educated up to at least school certificate and its equivalent”
The constitution and the electoral act make the requirements clearer. Section 318 (1) of the constitution defines school certificates or its equivalent to mean: (a)…
“a secondary school certified or its equivalent, a grade II teachers certificate, the city and guide certificate or (b) educated up to secondary school certificate level; or (c) primary six school leaving certificate or its equivalent and – (I) service in a public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of ten years
“and (II) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for period totaling up to a minimum of one year and (III) the ability to write, read, understand and communicate in English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission;
“and (d) Any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission. In effect, there are four path to educational qualification under section 318(1) of the constitution namely section 318(1)(a) or section 318 (1)(b) or section 318 (1)(c) and section 318 (1)(d)..EVERY CANDIDATE MUST CHOOSE WHICH QUALIFICATION HE IS RELYING ON* He may choose a, b, c or d. He may choose all.
“In exhibit P1, the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) chose only (a) and (c), listing the schools he attended and the qualification he obtained as Primary School Certificate, West African School Certificate and Officer Cadet. His CV was attached to show his working experience only.
“We therefore submit that to be qualified, the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) must produce his primary school certificate or West African School Certificate (WASC) or Officer Cadet, since those were the certificates he claimed in his form CF001 Exhibit P1
“We submit that a candidate must choose the qualification or qualifications he wishes to rely on at the time of swearing to or submitting his form CF001. The 2nd Respondent duly exercised that choice and must swim or sink with his choice. In the same manner, President Buhari, APC want PDP and Atiku/Obi’s 28,000 exhibits expunged. He asked court to reject testimonies from witnesses 40, 59 and 60.
“On August 14, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress have asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to expunge from its records over 28,000 result sheets of the February 23, 2019 election in 10 states tendered by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
They also urged the Justice Mohammed Garba- led tribunal of five judges to reject the testimony of the petitioners’ 40th, 59th and 60th witnesses. Atiku’s spokesperson, Mr Segun Showunmi, was the 40th witness and David Njorga from Kenya, who was described by the petitioners as their ‘expert witness’, was the PW 59; while Joseph Gbenga, a data analyst was the PW 60.
Buhari and his party also asked the tribunal to reject a separate set of 33 documents, which included the Certified True Copies of Form CF 001 (personal particulars) submitted by Buhari to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the presidential candidate of his party, other INEC documents and some newspaper reports.
Among the 28,428 documents, whose admissibility was being challenged by Buhari and APC, are 28,395 certified true copies of polling unit, local government, ward and state result sheets of 10 states. The states are Yobe (1,732 result sheets), Kebbi (2,106), Borno (3,472), Kano (5, 806), Bauchi (3, 599), Katsina (3, 378), Jigawa (3,162), Kaduna (3,335 A), Zamfara (eight) and Niger (1, 797). Buhari and the APC prayers, urging the tribunal not to act on the documents were contained in their separate objections to the admissibility of the petitioners’ documents earlier admitted conditionally as exhibits by the tribunal. Copies of the filings by the 2nd and 3rd respondents (Buhari and APC) were filed alongside their separate final addresses in which they urged the tribunal to dismiss Atiku’s petition against Buhari for lacking in merit.
APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), urged the tribunal to “expunge” the documents from the record of proceedings on the grounds that they were “wrongly admitted in evidence”, when they “are legally inadmissible”. He contended that while some of them “are documentary hearsay evidence that should not have been admitted by the honourable court in the first place”, others were inadmissible on the grounds that they were tendered from the bar despite being disputed by the APC.
On the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses numbers 40, 59 and 60, Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said their testimonies were in violation of the March 6, 2019 order of the tribunal, which dismissed the petitioners’ request to be granted access to an alleged server in which they claimed INEC stored the authentic results of the last presidential election.
Showunmi (PW 40) had tendered some video evidence to prove the petitioners’ case of the existence of the server. Njorga (PW 59) also gave evidence and tendered his report on the existence of the said server, while Gbenga (PW 60) also gave evidence and tendered his report of the analysis of the results of the election in 11 states. But Olanipekun faulted the evidence of the witnesses, which he argued emerged “in express violation of a subsisting order of court, same germinates in stark abuse of the process of this honourable court.”