Adds Allegation puerile, vexatious
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, has rebuked All Progressives Congress, APC, describing the allegation that he is a Cameroonian as puerile, face-saving, vexatious, absolutely and completely unfounded.
Atiku, in his response to preliminary objection APC filed to challenge his petition against the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential election, maintained that he is a full blooded Nigerian.
He urged the presidential election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja to ignore what he termed as “extraneous facts, contradictory, diversionary, evasive, speculative and vague assertions,” by APC and President Buhari.
Atiku told the tribunal that contrary to APC’s allegation that he is an alien, he said he is a Nigerian by birth and a Fulani by tribe.
He told the tribunal that he has been a Nigerian politician for about 30 years, adding that in 1992, he contested in the presidential primaries on the platform of then Social Democratic Party, SDP, alongside the late Chief M.K.O Abiola and Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe.
He said: “Contrary to the allegations contained in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the 3rd Respondent’s reply, the petitioners state that the 1st petitioner is a citizen of Nigeria by birth and thus qualified to vote and be voted for and returned in the election to the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, held on Saturday, February 23, 2019 going by the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“In further response to paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 of the 3rd respondent’s reply, the petitioners state as follows: ‘The 1st petitioner was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa State by Nigerian parents and he is, therefore, a citizen of Nigeria by birth.
“The 1st petitioner’s father, Garba Abdulkadir, was a Nigerian by birth, who hailed from Wurno in present day Sokoto State while the mother, Aisha Kande was also a Nigerian who hailed from Dutse in present day Jigawa State.
“The parents of the 1st petitioner are both Fulani, a community/tribe indigenous to Nigeria.
“The birth of the 1st petitioner in Jada, in present day Adamawa State of Nigeria was occasioned by the movement of his paternal grandfather called Atiku, who was an itinerant trader, from Wurno in present day Sokoto State to Jada in the company of his friend, Ardo Usman.
“That in Jada, Atiku, the grandfather of the 1st petitioner gave birth to Garba who in turn gave birth to the 1st petitioner and named him after his own father Atiku.
“The 1st petitioner’s mother, Aisha Kande, was the grand-daughter of Inuwa Dutse who came to Jada as an itinerant trader too from Dutse in present day Jigawa State.
“That all averments concerning Germany, British Cameroons, League of Nations and Plebiscite are false and misleading in relation to the 1st petitioner and, therefore, completely irrelevant more so that the 1st petitioner is a Nigerian by birth within the contemplation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic ofNigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“The averments in the aforesaid paragraphs are indeed fabricated, contrived, made in bad faith and designed to embarrass the 1st petitioner.
“In response to paragraph 7 of the 3rd respondent’s reply, the petitioners aver that the votes of the 1st petitioner in the election of February 23, 2019 to the office of the president are not wasted votes, and the 1st petitioner being a qualified candidate in the said election indeed secured majority of lawful votes over and above the votes of the 2nd respondent.
Career and political activities
“In further reaction to Paragraph 7 of the 3rd Respondent Reply, the Petitioners hereby plead and contend that at all times material the 1st petitioner has been a Nigerian by birth and has participated in the following career and political activities and has also received the following awards and honours:
“The 1st petitioner was a civil servant in the Nigeria Customs Service for over 20 years and retired as a deputy director.
Qualification to contest elections
“The issue of qualification of the 2nd respondent to contest election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a mandatory statutory and/or constitutional requirement that cannot be waived by the petitioners as erroneously averred in paragraph 499 (d) of the 3rd Respondent’s Reply.
“In further response to paragraphs 493, 497, 498, 499, 500 and 501 of the 3rd respondent’s reply, the Petitioners challenge the 3rd Respondent to produce the originals or Certified True Copies of the 2nd respondent’s purported certificates obtained from elementary school, Daura and Mai’adua, Middle School, Katsina and Katsina Provincial Secondary School and all other institutions pleaded in paragraphs 500 and 501 of 3rd respondent’s reply.”
Atiku maintained that his petition is competent and meritorious, saying the return of President Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential poll was undue and wrongful.
“The 3rd respondent’s reply does not answer the points of substance in the Petition but same is full of extraneous facts, contradictory, diversionary, evasive, speculative and vague assertions”, he added.
More so, Atiku argued that the tribunal has the requisite jurisdiction to consider his contention that Buhari lacked the educational qualification to contest the presidential election.
“Contrary to the 3rd Respondent’s contention in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Preliminary Objection, this Honourable Court is vested with the vires and jurisdiction to adjudicate on the Petitioners’ allegations as raised vide Grounds (D) and (E) in paragraph 15 of the Petition, as well as the related facts contained in paragraphs 384 to 409 of the petition, as these grounds do not fall within the purview of pre-election matters contemplated by section 285 (9) and (14) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (4th Alteration No 21) Act 2017.
“Grounds 15 (d) and (e) of the petition and indeed all the grounds of the Petition are covered by Sections 35(1) and (2) and 138 (1)(e) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and are therefore cognizable in an election petition.
“The issue of the qualification of the 2nd respondent to contest the presidential election under scrutiny, which is at the epicenter of the petitioners’ grounds (d) and (e) of paragraph 15 of the petition is not only a pre-election matter but also a post-election matter within the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) as well as the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and therefore competent and not statute-barred.
“The issue of non-qualification of the 2nd respondent is fundamental and can therefore not be waived as erroneously alleged by the 3rd Respondent.
“In reply to paragraph 6 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that the petition discloses reasonable cause of action capable of conferring this Honourable Court with jurisdiction to entertain same.
“In answer to paragraph 7 of the Preliminary Objection, the Petitioners aver that the paragraphs of the Petition set out therein by the 3rd Respondent are not in any way generic, vague, un-referable (sic), non specific, nebulous, bogus, imprecise, speculative or at large.
“Indeed the said paragraphs of the Petition have stated clearly the facts of the election Petition, the grounds on which the Petition is based and the reliefs sought by the Petitioners in consonance with the dictates of paragraph 4(1)(d) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
“In further answer to paragraph 7 of the Preliminary Objection, the Petitioners contend that assuming without conceding that the 3rd Respondent is not clear as to the import of all or any of the paragraphs alleged to be vague, the 3rd Respondent is obliged to seek further and better particulars from the Petitioners, which they have failed to do and can therefore not be heard to complain of vagueness.
“More so, when they have replied to the paragraph in question and others they challenged.
Allegations of noncompliance
“In answer to paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the Preliminary Objection, the Petitioners state that all the allegations of non compliance in the petition have been tied to specific polling units, wards and local governments associated with the allegations.
“In further answer to paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that particulars of polling units where irregularities, non-compliance and other infractions took place were supplied in the Petition which ought to be read together and not in isolation as the 3rd respondent has clearly done.
“In answer to paragraphs 13, 14, and 15, of the preliminary objection alleging failure to join persons named in the paragraphs of the Petition listed by the 3rd respondent, the petitioners contend that the individuals, officers, institutions and personages named in those paragraphs acted for and on behalf of the 1st Respondent as agents, and/or on the authority of the 1st Respondent which is a named party in this Petition.
“In answer to paragraphs 16 and 17 of the preliminary objection, the Petitioners contend that to the extent that the listed paragraphs deal with the question of the qualification of the 2nd respondent to contest the presidential election, these paragraphs cannot be pigeonholed within the narrow confine of section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), since qualification is both a pre and post election matter.
“In answer to paragraph 18 of the Preliminary Objection, the Petitioners contend that paragraph 15 (b) and (c) of the Grounds of the Petition as well as paragraphs 107 to 363 and 364 to 387 of the Petition are proper, valid, and in no way hypothetical in that the reliefs sought in the Petition are clearly tied to the paragraphs aforesaid and the entirety of the Petition taken together, such that this court has the jurisdiction to entertain the paragraphs and the grounds upon which they are based.
“In answer to paragraph 19 of the Preliminary Objection, the Petitioners contend that paragraphs 389 and 390 of the Petition are clear statements of facts tied to the provisions of the Electoral Act (supra), which in no way offend the rules of pleadings.”
On his lawyer’s qualification
Likewise, Atiku urged the tribunal to ignore the allegation that his lead lawyer was not qualified to practice in Nigeria.
He told the tribunal that contrary to APC’s allegation, his lawyer, Livy Uzokwu, SAN, was a former Attorney General of Imo State.
“In answer to paragraph 20 of the 3rd Respondent’s Preliminary Objection alleging that the Petition was not signed by a known individual and/or entity, the Petitioners contend that the Petition was indeed signed by a Legal Practitioner duly called to the Nigerian Bar in 1982 and licensed to practice as a Legal Practitioner in Nigeria. He was Attorney General of Imo State (1994 – 1996) and was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1999.
“The Petitioners also in response to paragraph 20 of the Preliminary Objection contend that the fact of the qualification of the Petitioners’ Lead Counsel to sign the Petition is well-known to the 3rd Respondent’s team of lawyers and that the allegation of his purported non-qualification is in bad taste, malafide, highly tendentious, irritating, mischievous and most undeserving of any serious attention by the court.
“In further response to paragraph 20 of the Preliminary Objection, the Petitioners contend that the Petition having been duly signed by the Petitioners and their Legal Practitioner who is enrolled in the Supreme Court of Nigeria is competent. The said Legal Practitioner is also an SAN, whose nomenclature or identity is not in doubt.
“In response to Paragraph 21 of the 3rd Respondent’s Preliminary Objection, the Petitioners contend that the Petition before this Honourable Court is properly constituted having regard to the Parties, the grounds therein, the reliefs sought and the facts pleaded and same is therefore competent and not liable to being struck out.
“The Petitioners state that the entirety of the 3rd Respondent’s Objection is puerile, face saving, vexatious, absolutely and completely unfounded.
“The said paragraphs being a challenge to the 1st Petitioner’s qualification under Section 131 (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and relating to an Election Petition matter ought to have been brought within 21 days after the date of declaration of the result of the election under Section 285 (5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and having not been so brought timeously is therefore, incompetent and statute barred.
“The averments in the said paragraphs touching on qualification of the 1st Petitioner cannot be raised vide a Reply to a Petition in the absence of a Petition by the 3rd Respondent.
“The averments in the said paragraphs not having been supported by any relief in the 3rd Respondent’s Reply are hypothetical, academic, speculative and incompetent.
“The Petitioners will also contend that the 3rd Respondent’s Reply under reference is incompetent in so far as the Counsel who signed same has no National Identity Number shown or reflected on the Reply contrary to the provisions of the Mandatory Use of National Identification Number, Regulations, 2017, made pursuant to the National Identity Management Commission Act, 2007″.
Atiku said he would in the course of the hearing, produce former Minister of Aviation and member of his campaign team, Mr. Osita Chidoka, his close associates and polling agents, to give evidence on how the election was rigged in Buhari’s favour.