Queries powers of tribunal to order fresh election
Adds: Not only do I have SSCE, I rose to top of my military career
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, took a swipe at the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the recently concluded presidential election, describing him as a serial loser.
In a preliminary objection he filed to challenge the competence of the petition that Atiku and PDP lodged against his re-election on February 23, President Buhari, boasted that he had always defeated the PDP candidate in every electoral contest that both of them took part in.
Buhari maintained that the electorate always chose him ahead of Atiku, in both inter-party or intra-party contests, using the 2014 presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as an instance.
“The respondent further avers that at every previous instance, whether at intra-party or inter-party contests, where he and the 1st petitioner had vied, he has always been the preference of the electorate and/or delegates.
“In particular, at the primary election conducted by the 3rd respondent (APC) in 2014, to pick its presidential candidate for the 2015 election, the 1st petitioner and respondent, amongst others, were the candidates and while the respondent polled 3,430 votes, 1st petitioner came a distant third with 954 votes,” President Buhari stated in the process he filed before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
Buhari also queried the powers of the tribunal to nullify his election victory at the poll, contending that the joint petition Atiku and the PDP entered against him was incompetent as it was based on conjectures.
Insisting that reliefs the petitioners are seeking from the tribunal were “vague, nebulous and lacking in specificity,” he argued that most of the issues and grounds of the petition were not only “mutually exclusive,” but also outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
He contended that by virtue of Section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, only the Federal High Court or High Court of a State has jurisdiction to adjudicate on some of the issues, among which included the allegation that he was bereft of the requisite educational qualification.
Buhari told the tribunal that contrary to Atiku’s allegation that he submitted false academic qualifications in the Form CF001 he used to secure clearance from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, he said he was at the time of the election, “eminently qualified to contest the election, having not only the minimum qualification of reading up to secondary school level, but rose to the peak of his career as a General in the Nigerian Army with cognate experience and training.
“All information in the affidavit submitted by the respondent for the purpose of his election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is true and correct, to the best of his information and knowledge,” he added.
Consequently, he maintained that all paragraphs of the petition relating to, or touching on his alleged non possession of requisite educational qualification, “are liable to be struck out.”
He argued that the alternative relief in the petition seeking a fresh election, was inconsistent with relief 409(a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of the same petition, saying, “thus, all the reliefs in the petition are liable to be struck out.”
“The entire reliefs are not justiciable, as the petitioners who claim to have scored majority of lawful votes in substantial number of states, are also questioning their own return in those states; the petitioners cannot act as petitioners and respondents in the same petition.
“By the petitioners’ pleadings, they claim to have majority of votes cast at the election in Rivers Bayelsa, Akwa lbom, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Imo, Delta, Cross River, Edo, Anambra, Ondo, Oyo, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; yet, they seek an alternative and incongruous relief that the presidential election of February 23, 2019, be nullified and a fresh election ordered, without first praying for the nullification of election in the states where they claim to have won.”
He argued that by virtue of section 137 of the Electoral Act, petitioners cannot question results of election in states where they claim to have won and still retain themselves as petitioners.
He further contended that by virtue of section 285(9) of the constitution, some of Atiku’s complaints, including his alleged ineligibility to contest the 2019 presidential election, being pre-election matter, can no longer be litigated upon or considered since 14 days had elapsed since the supposed cause of action arose.
“Pursuant to section 285(10) of the constitution, this court lacks the jurisdiction to countenance both the complaints and the reliefs altogether,” Buhari insisted.
Similarly, he argued that all portions of the petition relating to the use of Card Reader Device are liable to be struck out, same being incompetent and not rooted in any existing legislation.
He equally argued that every aspect of the petition grounded on or relating to electronic data purportedly retrieved or downloaded from INEC’s server are also liable to be struck out, “same being incompetent and not rooted in any existing legislation.”
“That there were no incidences of corrupt practices at the election of February 23, 20l9, as alleged by the petitioners and that the declaration and return of the respondent President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is valid and in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, and all other Laws, Rules, Guidelines and Regulations, regulating the election.
“That the election of the respondent as the elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is valid and was conducted in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“Contrary to paragraph 17 of the petition, the respondent states that the petitioners scored a total of 11,262,978 votes, trailing far behind the respondent who scored a total of 15,191,847 votes, with a margin of 3.328.869 votes.”
Insisting that he validly earned the number of votes credited to him by INEC, Buhari, said there was “nothing affecting the integrity of the election as there was nothing untoward on the Form ECBDM) and no calculation errors can he revealed by any genuine forensic examination or statistical analysis in respect of the election.
“The 1st respondent was duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of the President, and shall at the trial, rely on [NBC FORMS 3C8 MA) and ECBE, issued by the 1st respondent at the election.
“Further to paragraph 1 of the petition, respondent denies that the 1st petitioner voted at all at the election, and further states that 1st petitioner did/does not have any right to be returned an elected at the said election, having been rejected at the polls by the electorate and the respondent having been overwhelmingly voted by the electorate, and returned by the 1st respondent as President in the said election.
“The respondent further states that he did not only score majority of lawful votes cast at the election into the office of President of Nigeria at the election of February 23, 2019, convincingly, but also had/has the requisite constitutional spread of one-quarter of the total number of votes cast in more than two-thirds of the States of the Federation,” President Buhari argued in the objection he filed through his team of lawyers, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN.