Stories by Emeka Anaeto, Emma Ujah and Peter Egwuatu in Washington DC
The All Progressives Congress, APC, has lodged an attack against the petition seeking to invalidate the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and branded the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, an alien.
The ruling party, in processes it filed before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, maintained that Atiku is not a Nigerian and was therefore not qualified to contest the February 23 presidential poll or to challenge the declaration of President Buhari as the winner.
Consequently, APC, asked the tribunal which is conducting its proceedings at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, to dismiss Atiku’s petition against Buhari for being grossly incompetent, insisting that he is a Cameroonian.
Besides, APC, through its lawyer, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, asked the tribunal to invoke its powers to void and declare the 11.1million votes that were recorded in favour of Atiku and the PDP as wasted votes.
According to APC, Atiku, was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa, in Northern Cameroon and is therefore a citizen of Cameroon and not a Nigerian by birth.
It told the tribunal that prior to 1919, Cameroon was being administered by Germany, adding that following the defeat of Germany in World War 1, which ended in 1918, Cameroon, became part of a League of Nations mandate territory which consisted of French Cameroon and British Cameroon in 1919.
APC noted that in 1961, a plebiscite was held in British Cameroon to determine whether the people preferred to stay in Cameroon or align with Nigeria.
It stressed that while Northern Cameroon preferred a union with Nigeria, the Southern Cameroon chose alignment with the mother country, saying it was as a result of the plebiscite that Northern Cameroon, which included Adamawa, became part of Nigeria.
The ruling party argued that contrary to Atiku’s claims in his petition, he had no right to be voted for as a candidate in the election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on February 23, 2019.
It averred that by reason of Atiku’s ineligibility to contest the election, all votes credited to him and the PDP in the February 23 election ought to be deemed as wasted votes.
APC contended that most of the claims contained in Atiku’s petition have become statute barred, arguing that the Tribunal was therefore bereft of the jurisdiction to entertain it.
For instance, it said the issue of President Buhari’s educational qualification that was raised by the petitioners could not be treated by the Tribunal since the period for claims and objections on such issues had expired.
It argued that the petitioners failed and neglected to use the appropriate period allowed by the law to challenge educational qualifications Buhari supplied in the form CF001 he used to secure clearance from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
APC argued that since the petitioners waived their right to challenge the propriety of information contained in the form CF001 of President Buhari, they therefore failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action in the petition.
More so, APC, faulted allegation that the presidential election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
It argued that failure by the petitioners to make specific references to the compliance issue was fatal to their case against the 2019 presidential election.
Atiku and PDP had in their joint petition marked CA/PEPC/002/2019, prayed 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.
In the alternative, the petitioners prayed the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election and order a fresh poll.