July 24, 2019

Presidential Poll: PDM withdraws case against Buhari, cites national interest

Buhari, poverty

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

The Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, and its candidate, Pastor Aminchi Habu, on Wednesday, withdrew the petition they filed against President Muhammadu Buhari to nullify the outcome of the February 23 presidential election.

Buhari, PDM

President Muhammadu Buhari

The party, which contended that its logo was not included in the ballot paper that was used for the presidential election, had in the joint petition marked CA/PEPC/004/2019, prayed the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja to void President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election and order a fresh poll.

The petitioners argued that the exclusion denied the party the opportunity to contest the election after it had spent a lot of money on campaigns.

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Aside from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, President Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, were cited as respondents to the petition.

Meanwhile, the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member panel was set to commence hearing on the matter on Wednesday, when counsel to the petitioners, Mr. Aliyu Lemu, announced the decision of his clients to discontinue the case.

In two separate affidavits that were deposed to by both its presidential candidate, Habu, and National Secretary, Abubakar Gwada, the party said it decided to terminate hearing on the case for the national interest.

“That we have found other alternative ways of seeking redress for the complaints alleged in our petition.

“That it will be best to withdraw our Petition in the circumstance to decongest the docket of this Honourable Court and save precious judicial time and to prevent the Respondents from any unnecessary expense of defending this Petition.

“That at the time of filing this application, Hearing has not commenced in this Petition.

“That withdrawing this Petition is an extreme circumstance otherwise this Honourable Court will be put to the task of hearing a Petition which the Petitioners no longer wish to pursue.

“That it will be in the interest of Justice for this Honourable Court to grant the Petitioners leave to bring and argue this application outside the Pre-Hearing session and to also withdraw this Petition to save the precious time of this Court and to prevent the Respondents from incurring unnecessary expense to defend this Petition.

“That the grant of this application will not prejudice the Respondents in any way. That it will be in the interest of Justice to grant this Application”, the party added.

Neither INEC, President Buhari or the APC opposed the application that was hinged on paragraphs 29 and 47 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended.

In its ruling, the Justice Garba-led panel granted the petitioners leave to move the withdrawal application outside the pre-hearing period.

Accordingly, it dismissed the petition.

The party had sought five principal reliefs from the tribunal, including a declaration that “The first petitioner (Habu) 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 held on February 23, 2019.

“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 the 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.”

The tribunal had earlier rejected an application the National Chairman of the party, Chief Frank Igwebuike, and some members of the party filed to pull-out from the petition against President Buhari.

The faction had applied for the name of the party to be removed from the petition, saying their presidential candidate was at liberty to pursue his case to its logical conclusion.

In an affidavit that was deposed by its Chairman, the party, said it had “in its wisdom, re-evaluated the probability of the petition succeeding and decided to withdraw from the petition”, based on a correspondence they received from INEC on March 5.

“That the second petitioner has resolved and decided to forgo whatever cause of action that necessitated the filling of the Petition.

“That in view of the decision of the second petitioner/applicant, there is no need to agitate the present petition”.

The party said it did not broker any deal with either President Buhari or the APC, to compromise the petition.

However, the application was dismissed by the tribunal which held that some condition precedents that would have allowed it to entertain such application outside the pre-hearing period, was not met by the party.