Alex Enumah in Abuja
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and his party have formally filed their appeal against the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal at the Supreme Court.
A senior lawyer in the legal team of Atiku and PDP, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who confirmed the filing of the appeal to THISDAY yesterday, said the appeal was predicated on 66 grounds, which outlined how the tribunal erred in its verdict on Atiku and PDP’s petition against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The five-man tribunal, led by Justice Mohammed Garba, had in its judgment delivered on September 11, dismissed the petition filed by Atiku and PDP for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The panel in dismissing the petition, held that Atiku and PDP were unable to substantiate their allegations that the election was rigged in favour of Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The tribunal further held that the petitioners did not produce relevant witnesses to convince them that Buhari did not possess necessary educational qualification to be president.
Though Ozekhome did not list any of the 66 grounds on which the appeal was predicated, findings revealed that the appeals are centered on issues bordering on the qualification of Buhari in the election and the controversial Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), server among others.
Earlier, another lawyer to the appellants, who had over the weekend spoken to THISDAY in confidence, had said: “We will file latest on Monday, September 23, and at most, due to any unforeseen reason, by September 24. Bear in mind that the deadline for submission is Wednesday. We won’t file on Wednesday for tactical reasons.”
Among the grounds he listed included claims that the judgment of the tribunal was not based on the issues canvassed by the petitioners, especially in relation to the respondent’s academic qualifications.
He said: “Take, for instance, one of the respondent’s witnesses, Major General Paul Tarfa (rtd), called by President Muhammadu Buhari’s lawyers said that they did not give their qualifications to the Military Board. Tarfa’s testimony is against the claim by Buhari that the Nigeria military is in possession of his certificates.
“Secondly, Buhari said that he was recruited into the military in 1961 and Tarfa said in 1962, so what is the correct date of his recruitment into the army? Somebody is not telling the truth.
“The issue in question is who entered the different grades for him from both the Cambridge and the West African School Certificate results? This is the first time that the court will say that the documents are admitted in the interest of justice. So, who entered the different grades for him and if he did it, why?
Another reason for the appeal is that the president’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, brought the Cambridge documents dated July 18 and testified on July 20.
“The point here is that it was not pleaded, when the respondent replied to the petition of Atiku and PDP. The position of the appellants is that in law, you don’t speak on documents not pleaded,” the source added.
The appellants are also claiming that the WAEC documents contradicted the Cambridge documents, describing it as a case of forgery and inconsistency in documents.
The lawyer added, “On the INEC server, the judgment of the PEPT said the INEC server was hacked and we then asked, which of the servers was hacked?
“The tribunal judgment was based on the Electoral Act section 52 (1) (B), but this aspect of the law has since been deleted in 2015. It is no longer in existence. This was the case in Wike Vs Peterside.
“If the judgment said INEC server was recklessly hacked, then, there is a server and, therefore, a criminal offence. Yet, INEC did not claim so or that its documents were stolen. How come the judge reached this scandalous decision?
“The appellants are therefore praying the apex court to hold that the tribunal erred in its decision and consequently set the tribunal’s judgment aside and go ahead to grant all the reliefs sought.”
Atiku and PDP had sued INEC before the tribunal for declaring Buhari winner of the February 23 presidential election.
Sued along the electoral umpire include Buhari and APC.
In the petition filed on March 18, the petitioners, amongst other things, alleged that INEC in connivance with agencies of the ruling government manipulated the outcome of the poll in favour of Buhari.
They further alleged that Buhari at the time of contesting the poll was not qualified having not possessed requisite academic qualification and as such all votes credited to him in the election be regarded as wasted votes.
Atiku and PDP in the petition therefore urged the tribunal to nullify the emergence of Buhari on grounds of alleged irregularities, rigging and substantial non-compliance with the electoral provisions, amongst others.
Among the grounds the petitioners were seeking the nullification of Buhari’s election was that the president lied on oath in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC for his clearance for the election.
The president had claimed that he possessed three certificates namely, Primary School Certificate, West African School Certificate (WASC) and Officers Cadet Certificate but unlike others did not attach copies of any of the certificates to support his claim.
They therefore prayed the tribunal to declare them winner of the February 23 presidential election.