Lines up 20 SANs, 400 witnesses
Adds: We’ve solid case against Buhari
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—In a rush to beat the 21 days deadline provided by the Electoral Act, lawyers to the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, stormed the tribunal to lodge a petition against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Atiku in the petition is praying the tribunal to sack Buhari and declare him (Atiku) winner of the poll.
Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had on February 27, Buhari, who was the flag-bearer of All Progressives Congress, APC, winner of the presidential election.
Under section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2010, any candidate that was dissatisfied with the outcome of the presidential contest, was mandated to approach the tribunal with a petition, not later than 21 days after the result was announced, a deadline that will expire on Tuesday.
The tribunal must deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date the petition was filed.
At press time, Atiku’s team of lawyers led by Mr. Chukwuma Ume, SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, were perfecting the filing process at the Central Registry of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPT, Abuja.
The tribunal will be conducting its proceedings at the Court of Appeal headquarters in Abuja.
Though Atiku had yet to arrive at the tribunal where he is expected to personally depose to an affidavit, however, some chieftains of PDP, including its spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan, and Alhaji Buba Galadima, accompanied the lawyers to the tribunal.
Addressing newsmen, National Legal Adviser of PDP, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, on the reliefs sought by Atiku and PDP, said: “We asked that our candidate, who won the election massively across the country be declared the winner. In the alternative, we also asked that the election be set aside on the ground of irregularity which was apparent across the country.
20 SANs, 400 witnesses
“We have a pool of 20 SANs who are tested in election petition matters and other senior lawyers who are also working with them. So we are confident. We have also lined up more than 400 witnesses that are going to testify in this petition.
“Nigerians are at home with what happened on February 23, the sham they called election. We are going to re-present those facts to Nigerians, we are not going to manufacture facts.”
Similarly, a member of the legal team, Chief Ozekhome, SAN, told journalists that the petitioners encountered serious challenges in the hands of INEC, which he noted was reluctant to grant them access to the electoral materials.
“Our petition is quite solid, very strong and unassailable. We believe that by the grace of God, the original winner will regain his mandate,” Ozekhome added.
It will be recalled that the tribunal had on March 6, ordered INEC to grant Atiku and PDP access to all the electoral materials that were used for the presidential poll.
The tribunal however, declined to allow Atiku and PDP to conduct forensic analysis on any of the electoral materials on the premise that such request was outside the scope of the Electoral Act, as amended.
Justice Abdul Aboki who delivered the lead ruling of the tribunal, held that Atiku’s request for experts to be permitted to conduct forensic audit on the materials, could not be regarded as “inspection” that was allowed in section 151 of the Electoral Act.
He held that a decided case-law in Hope Uzodinma Vs Osita Izunaso, which Atiku and the PDP relied upon to make the application, wherein a tribunal ordered INEC to allow the petitioner to scan and conduct forensic audit on all the election materials, had since been set-aside by the Court of Appeal.
Nevertheless, the tribunal directed INEC to allow the applicants access to the ballot papers and voters register.
Meanwhile, PDP is complaining that INEC was yet to obey the court order.