By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday reserved judgment in the petition filed by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 presidential election.
Chairman of the five man tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba, reserved judgment to a date that would be communicated to parties shortly after parties in the petition adopted their final written addresses as their argument for and against the petition.
Atiku and PDP had on March 18 filed their petition against the outcome of the presidential poll, alleging rigging, electoral malpractices amongst others and urged the tribunal to nullify the victory of Buhari at the poll.
Equally, the petitioners are asking the tribunal to nullify Buhari’s participation in the February 23 presidential election on grounds that he did not possess the necessary academic qualifications for the office of President and that President Buhari submitted false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to aid his qualification for the said election.
The five man tribunal headed by Justice Mohammed Garba had at the last sitting adjourned to Wednesday August 21 for parties to adopt their final written addresses for and against the petition.
In arguing his final written addresses President Muhammadu Buhari, insisted that there was no law to his knowledge that requires a candidate seeking election into the office of President of Nigeria to present any certificate qualifying him to contest the election.
Buhari through his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on grounds that it lacked merit, it is bona fide and lacking in substance.
According to Olanipekun, the argument of the petitioners that Buhari was not qualified was not tenable as there is no law that requires Buhari to tender any certificate in order to contest for the office of the president.
He said, “The law of the land, constitution and case law do not expect any certificate to be tendered or attached”.
He insisted that by provisions of section 318 of the constitution, Buhari was well qualified to have contested the February 23 presidential polls, adding that witnesses called and documents tendered all proved that he was educated up to a secondary school level.
He submitted that the case of the petitioners was liable to be dismissed because it was not properly diagnosed and was ill advised.
Olanipekun accordingly urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with cost against the petitioners.
However, in his own final argument, Atiku and PDP, told the tribunal that issue of qualification raised by the petitioners was so vital and should not be trivialized by the respondents.
They claimed that President Buhari lied on oath in his form CF001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to secure clearance for the election, wherein he claimed to possess three certificates, comprising Primary School leaving certificate, WAEC certifcate and Officers Cadet certifcate.
The petitioners said it was shocking and surprising that, “No Provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certifcates, no photocopy of certifcates and infact no electronic version of any of the certifcates was presented by Buhari throughout the hearing of the petition to dispute the claim of the petitioners.
“More worrisome is the fact that Buhari’s own witness Major General Paul Tafa Rtd, who joined the Nigerian Army with him in 1962 told the tribunal that they were not asked to submit their certificates to the Nigerian Army Board as claimed by Buhari in his form CF001.
“At any rate the Secretary of the Nigerian Army Board, Olatunde Olaleye, had in a statement clarified that Buhari had no single certificate in his personal file with the Nigerian Army”.
The electoral umpire in his own final argument insisted that the February 23 presidential poll was conducted in total compliance with the Nigerian constitution and Electoral Act and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
Similarly, the APC in his own submission said the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the nullification of the election as pleaded by the petitioners and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.