By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered substituted service of the petition challenging the outcome of the February 23 presidential election, on President Muhammadu Buhari.
The tribunal ordered that copies of all the legal processes should be served on Buhari through any senior officer at the national headquarters of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Abuja.
The order followed an ex-parte application that was filed by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
A three-man panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Abdul Aboki, granted the ex-parte motion the petitioners moved through their lawyers, Mr. Chris Uche, SAN.
The petitioners are in the petition marked CA/PEPC/002/2019, praying the tribunal to invalidate the declaration of President Buhari as winner of the presidential contest.
Aside INEC, President Buhari and the APC were cited as Respondents in the petition.
The tribunal had earlier ordered the electoral body to grant both the petitioners and the 2nd and 3rd Respondents (Buhari and the APC), access to all the electoral materials that were deployed for the February 23 presidential poll, apart from the Smart Card Reader Machines.
While Atiku and PDP maintained that they would need copies of the materials to sustain their allegation that the election was rigged, on the other hand, Buhari and the APC said they would also need the materials to prove that they legitimately won the presidential election.
It will be recalled that the electoral body had on February 27, declared that Buhari won the presidential contest with 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rivalry, Atiku, who it said polled a total of 11,262,978 votes.
However, in their joint petition, Atiku and his party, insisted that date they secured from INEC’s server, revealed that they defeated President Buhari with over 1.6million votes.
The petitioners alleged that INEC had at various stages of the presidential election, unlawful allocated votes to President Buhari, saying they would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that result of the election as announced by the electoral body, did not represent the lawful valid votes cast
Atiku alleged that in some states, INEC, deducted lawful votes that accrued to him, in its bid to ensure that Buhari was returned back to office.
The petitioners said they would call evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and finger-print experts at the hearing of the petition to establish that the scores credited to Buhari were not the product of actual votes validly cast at the polling units.
“The Petitioners plead and shall rely on electronic video recordings, newspaper reports, photographs and photographic images of several infractions of the electoral process by the Respondents”, they added.
More so, in one of the five grounds of the petition, Atiku and the PDP maintained that Buhari was not qualified to run for the office of the President, contending that he does not possess the constitutional minimum qualification of a school certificate.
The petitioners serialised results that were recorded from each state of the federation in order to prove that the alleged fraudulent allocation of votes to Buhari and the APC, took place at the polling units, the ward collating centres, local government collating centres and the State collating centres.
They argued that proper collation and summation of the presidential election results would show that contrary to what INEC declared, Atiku, garnered a total of 18,356,732 votes, ahead of Buhari who they said got a total of 16,741,430 votes.
“The Petitioners shall rely on the evidence of Statisticians, Forensic Examiners and other Experts, detailing the data analysis on the votes at all levels of collation, from the polling units to the final return”, he added.
“The Petitioners state that Smart Card Readers deployed by the 1st Respondent, in addition to accreditation, equally transmitted electronically the results of voting from polling units directly to the server of the 1st Respondent. The Presiding Officers of the 1st Respondent directly inputted the results from the polling units at the end of voting and transmitted directly to the server, in addition to manually taking the Form EC8As to the Wards for collation. The 1st Respondent is hereby given notice to produce the records of results from each polling unit uploaded and transmitted electronically by officials of the 1st Respondent through smart card readers to the 1st Respondent’s Servers.
“The Petitioners plead and rely on the 1st Respondent’s Manual Technologies 2019, and notice is hereby given to the 1st Respondent to produce same at the trial. The 1st Respondent’s agents at the polling units used the Smart Card Reader for electronic collation and transmission of results. The Petitioners plead and shall rely on and play at the trial, the video demonstration by the 1st Respondent of the deployment of Smart Card Reader for authentication of accreditation and for transmission of data.
“The Petitioners hereby plead and rely upon the extract of data as contained on the 1st Respondent’s servers as at 25th February 2019, notice to produce whereof is hereby given to the 1st Respondent. The Petitioners also will rely on the data on the 1st Respondent’s central server between 25th February 2019 and 8th March 2019 and hereby also give notice to produce same before this Honourable Court.
“The Petitioners hereby plead the electronic data on the servers of the 1st Respondent and shall at the trial give evidence of the source of the data analysis and data material, including the website: www.factsdontlieng.com.
“The 1st Respondent had on the day of election published the total number of registered voters in the entire Country as 84,004,084. Subsequently, the same 1st Respondent published a different figure of 82,344,107 as registered voters, leading to an unexplained difference of 1,659,977 registered voters. The 1st Respondent equally published the number of permanent voter’s cards (PVC) collected for the purpose of the presidential election as 72,775,502.
“The Petitioners state that whereas the actual number of voters accredited at the election was 35,098,162, the 1st Respondent wrongly suppressed and/or reduced the number of accredited voters to 29,394,209 to the detriment of the Petitioners.
“The 1st Respondent had by its Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2019 made pursuant to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) provided for the mandatory use of card readers for the said election. The 1st Respondent by its press release on smart card readers issued in February 2019 and signed by its National Commissioner, Barrister Festus Okoye, emphasised and reiterated that “The use of the Smart Card Reader is NOT ONLY MANDATORY but its deliberate non-use attracts the sanction of possible prosecution of erring officials in accordance with the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of elections.
“This is in addition to the voiding of any result emanating from such units or areas as was done in the Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23, 2019.” By this stated position of the 1st Respondent, all accreditation not done by smart card reader in the presidential election was and remain void.
“The Petitioners state and contend that the 2nd Respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election; and that from the data on each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, in the 1st Respondent’s server, the 1st Petitioner, as opposed to the 2nd Respondent, scored majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
“Wherefore, the Petitioners pray jointly and severally against the Respondents as follows:-
“That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent (Buhari) was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast in the said election and therefore the declaration and return of the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent as the President of Nigeria is unlawful, undue, null, void and of no effect.
“That it may be determined that the 1st Petitioner (Atiku) was duly and validly elected and ought to be returned as President of Nigeria, having polled the highest number of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of the President of Nigeria held on 23rd February 2019 and having satisfied the constitutional requirements for the said election.
“An order directing the 1st Respondent to issue Certificate of Return to the 1st Petitioner as the duly elected President of Nigeria.
“That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the said election.
“That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent submitted to the Commission affidavit containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election”.
In the alternative, the petitioners prayed the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election and order a fresh poll.