*Says Buhari didn’t lie, eminently qualified to contest presidential election
*Blames petitioners for failing to prove cases of irregularities
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the last presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and his party were on Friday absent in court when the apex court gave reasons for the dismissal of their appeal challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Atiku and PDP had appealed the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which dismissed their appeal against the emergence of Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential election.
However the Supreme Court in its judgment of October 30, dismissed the appeal on grounds that it was unmeritorious, but said reason behind the judgment would be given at a later date.
But when the matter was called, there was no appearances for both Atiku and the PDP, neither was there any legal representation, forcing counsel to the second respondent to apologize on behalf of the appellants.
In a quick response, Justice John Okoro who led two other Justices, held that the court would go ahead to give its reasons notwithstanding the absence of the appellants.
Justice Okoro who read the lead judgment by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad said that the apex court after going through the matter agreed with the decision of the tribunal that the appellants were unable to prove allegations made in the appeal.
Okoro noted that the appeal of Atiku and PDP were centred around two major issues; qualification and non compliance with the electoral laws.
He said having gone through the testimonies and documents tendered by the appellants it was convinced that the tribunal erred in arriving at the decision to dismiss the appeal and affirmed the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as lawfully and duly returned as winner of the election.
On the issue of qualification, the apex court held that the tribunal was in order when it held that President Buhari was eminently qualified to contest the February 23 presidential poll.
Okoro said that the issue of qualification is a constitutional one that is not open to conjectures or inferences.
Citing sections 131 and 318 of the constitution, the apex court held that Buhari was able to prove that he possessed the minimum academic qualification, which is education up to secondary school level, adding that mere attendance in a school up to secondary school level qualifies one to contest for the office of President of Nigeria.
According to the judgment exhibits such as group photographs of Katsina Secondary School, Cambridge University Assessment, West African Examination Council (WAEC) results amongst others point to the fact that Buhari was educated up to secondary school level.
While noting the appellants failed to prove that these certificates were forged, Justice Okoro held that no law in the country, whether the constitution or the Electoral Act requires a candidate to attach his certificate before he can be adjudged qualified to contest an election.
On the issue of giving false information to INEC, the apex court said it also agreed with the decision of the tribunal that the allegation being rooted in criminality must be proved beyond reasonable doubt and that the appellants did not do so.
On the issue of the differences in the name ‘Mohamed’ and ‘Muhammadu’, the apex court held that the fifth witness called by Buhari was able to establish that the two names, ‘Mohamed’and’Muhammadu’ belong to the same person.
On the issue of server which the appellants relied on to prove irregularities and non compliance with the electoral laws, the apex court said that the tribunal was right in rejecting the data and analysis from the said server because the said data were not obtained from INEC but rather from a whistle blower and anonymous INEC staff which cannot be relied upon.
According to the Supreme Court, the evidence of both the ICT experts, whose report was based on a doubtful source cannot be attached probative value and as such was liable to be thrown out.