August 1, 2019

Presidential Tribunal : Buhari closes defence, as APC fails to call any witness

Buhari, Nigeria, security chiefs, IMN, national development agenda

President Muhammadu Buhari

.tribunal fixes August 21 for adoption of final addresses

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA – President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, announced his decision to close his defence to the petition the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, filed to nullify his re-election.

Buhari, Nigeria, security chiefs Tribunal

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Buhari, through his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, said he took the decision after he carefully studied the case PDP and Atiku lodged against him before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.

At the resumed proceeding on the matter, Olanipekun, SAN, said his client, haven considered the totality of evidence before the tribunal, decided that there was no need to further waste the time of the court.

“My lords, we have studied the hardware, software and even hardcopy of the petition and evidence presented by the petitioners, vis-à-vis the issues, which in our humble view, are in contention and evidence.

“That is, issues that have been ventilated in this court and not outside. We have come to the decision that it is time that we restrict the legal dwell to the four corners of this Court.

“We are very satisfied with the evidence we have led and will be closing the case of the 2nd Respondent within the four walls of this Court, where we were trained to operate.

“I had indeed assured your lordships two days ago that when we start, there would be no going back”, Olanipekun stated.

Immediately President Buhari’s lawyer ended his submission, counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, also informed the tribunal that the party resolved not to call any witness in the matter.

He said: “In the normal course of events, it is the turn of the 3rd respondent to open its defence. I have ruminated over whether to talk now or later. I am eternally grateful to the petitioners for doing such a great work by providing us the ammunition for defence. Haven considered all the evidence, we believe there is no point in indulging in an over-kill exercise.

“In the circumstance, we will be closing our case. We, the 3rd respondent, announce that we are satisfied with the cross-examination and evidence proffered.

“In the circumstance, I, as leader of this team, announce the closure of the case of the 3rd respondent”.

However, he urged the tribunal to grant the respondents till Monday to procure some documents they would need to file their final written addresses.

“There are some documents that would be germane to our written address”, he added.

Petition: My case against Buhari, by Atiku(Opens in a new browser tab)

His request was further amplified by President Buhari’s lawyer who said the respondents would need time to look at some of the evidence already laid before the tribunal.

On his part, counsel to the petitioners, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, thanked the tribunal for accommodating all the parties thus far.

He said his clients had predicated the move by both APC and Buhari, saying all they did in the case was “to save face”.

“I further thank them for neither wasting the time of the court nor that of the politicians”, Uzoukwu added.

He pleaded that since there are three respondents to the petition, the petitioners should be granted seven days to file their final written address.

In a ruling, the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member panel, granted Fagbemi’s request and directed the respondents to within three days from Monday, file their final written addresses.

The tribunal ordered that the petitioners should upon receipt of the addresses, take 7 days afterwards to file their own.

It held that the respondent are at liberty to within two days after the petitioners had filed their process, reply on points of law.

Justice Garba ordered that filing and exchange of processes by the parties should be concluded before August 16, even as he adjourned further proceedings till August 21 for adoption of all the final written addresses.

After the adoption of addresses by all the parties, the tribunal, will fix a date for judgement.

President Buhari had between Monday and Wednesday, presented a total of seven witnesses that testified before the tribunal.

The petitioners had on July 19, closed their case after they called a total of 62 witnesses and tendered over 40,000 documents.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which is the first respondent in the matter, had informed the court that it would not call any witness to defend the petition, saying it would rely on responses of all the petitioners’ witnesses that were cross-examined.

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 marked CA/PEPC/002/2019, Atiku and his party, insisted that data they secured from INEC’s server, revealed that they defeated President Buhari with over 1.6million votes

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

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 and PDP 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.

Specifically, they are seeking the following reliefs: “That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent (Buhari) was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast in the said election and therefore the declaration and return of the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent as the President of Nigeria is unlawful, undue, null, void and of no effect.

“That it may be determined that the 1st Petitioner (Atiku) was duly and validly elected and ought to be returned as President of Nigeria, having polled the highest number of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of the President of Nigeria held on 23rd February 2019 and having satisfied the constitutional requirements for the said election.

“An order directing the 1st Respondent (INEC) to issue Certificate of Return to the 1st Petitioner as the duly elected President of Nigeria.

“That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the said election.

“That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent submitted to the Commission affidavit containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election”.

In the alternative, “That the election to the office of the President of Nigeria held on 23rd February 2019 be nullified and a fresh election ordered”.

However, all the respondents had since filed processes wherein they urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition as lacking in merit.

President Buhari insisted that every aspect of the petition grounded on or relating to electronic data purportedly retrieved or downloaded from INEC’s server were liable to be struck out, “same being incompetent and not rooted in any existing legislation”.

He said: “That there were no incidences of corrupt practices at the election of 23rd February, 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 that were 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.

“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 23rd February, 2019, convincingly but also had/has the requisite constitutional spread of one-quater of the total number of votes cast in more than two-thirds of the States of the Federation”, President Buhari argued.