By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Friday, ordered that President Muhammadu Buhari should be served a copy of a petition seeking to invalidate the February 23 election over the exclusion of Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, on the ballot paper.
The three-member panel tribunal headed by Justice Abdul Aboki, okayed substituted service of all the court processes on President Buhari, through the office of the legal adviser of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The tribunal said its decision to hear issues the PDM and its presidential candidate, Pastor Aminchi Habu, raised in their petition, was “in the interest of justice”.
Justice Aboki who read the ruling, held that the panel had carefully considered an ex-parte motion the petitioners filed through their lawyer, Mr. Aliyu Lemu.
Lemu had pleaded the tribunal to allow his clients to drop all the court processes meant for President Buhari at the APC National Headquarters at No. 40 Blantyre Street, Off Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Wise 2, Abuja.
He said his clients found it extremely difficult to have access to President Buhari owing to heavy security and protocols surrounding his office.
Specifically, the petition marked CA/PEPC/004/2019, is praying the tribunal to nullify the presidential election and order the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct a fresh one.
Cited as defendants in the matter were INEC, President Buhari and the APC.
The petitioners maintained that the unlawful omission of its name and logo from the ballot papers by INEC rendered the outcome of the February 23 Presidential election invalid.
Alleging that they were illegally denied the opportunity to participate in the presidential contest, the PDM, said its candidate spent a lot of money on campaigns.
Habu is praying the court to declare that he was validly nominated by the second petitioner, PDM, but unlawfully excluded by the first respondent, INEC, from the election into the office of the President.
They petitioners want, “A declaration that the second respondent being the candidate of the third respondent (APC) was not lawfully or validly returned as the winner of the said election by virtue of the unlawful exclusion of the petitioners.
“An order nullifying the return and declaration of the second respondent (Buhari) as the winner of the election held on February 23, 2019 for the office of the President on grounds of wrongful exclusion of the petitioners from the Presidential election held on February 23, 2019.
As well as, “An order directing the first respondent (INEC) to conduct a fresh election into the office of the President within 90 days from the date of the judgment of the tribunal”.
In his statement on oath, Habu told the tribunal that he purchased the Presidential form of the PDM at the rate of N5million after which he visited the 36 states of the federation to seek the support of party members.
He said after he emerged winner of the primary, the PDM, forwarded his name to INEC, adding that, “The first respondent, INEC,without any lawful cause, wrongfully excluded my name, my party and our logo from the ballot paper and all other electoral materials and documents used for the February 23, 2019 Presidential election.
“The above action of the first respondent, INEC, in unlawfully and wrongfully excluding the petitioners has caused immeasurable losses in resources and electoral fortunes of the petitioners especially my good self having invested so much money campaigning, time and resources mobilising supporters throughout the entire country”, he added.