By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
In a counter-move, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has approached the Supreme Court, praying it to revalidate the tribunal judgment that affirmed its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, as the valid winner of the last presidential election.
However, in the cross-appeal it filed through its team of lawyers led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the ruling party, challenged the decision of the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-man Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to evaluate some of the proof of evidence the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, adduced to support their petition against the outcome of the February 23 presidential election.
Even though the Justice Garba-led five-member panel tribunal had in a judgement it delivered on September 11, dismissed the petition marked PEPT/CA/02/2019, for want of merit, the APC, is urging the apex court to expunge all the expert reports Atiku brought before the tribunal.
Specifically, APC queried the admission of reports and evidence of three data analysts that appeared to testify for Atiku at the tribunal.
It will be recalled that though the tribunal admitted all the reports in evidence “in the interest of justice”, it, however, declined to accord any probative value to them in its final judgement.
The tribunal refused all the five reliefs the petitioners sought before it, even as it upheld President Buhari’s re-election.
Nevertheless, APC contended in its cross-appeal that reports of the expert witnesses ought not to have formed part of the record of proceedings of the tribunal.
It urged the Supreme Court to expunge the evidence of the three Information Communication and Technology (ICT) experts that claimed that result of the presidential election was electronically transmitted and stored in a central server by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The three witnesses the APC is challenging the legality of their evidence, are Atiku’s media aide, Segun Sowunmi, a Kenyan ICT expert, David Njoga and one Joseph Gbenga who was identified as a data/forensic analysts.
The Kenyan witness who was subpoenaed to appear before the tribunal had in his testimony as to the PW-58, insisted that he conducted analysis and findings on the result of the presidential election as was electronically transmitted to the server.
He said results from the server was directly copied to a website he gave as www.factsdontlieng.com, which he said was created by an official of INEC that acted as a Whistle-blower.
Similarly, both Sowunmi and Gbenga tendered report of what they termed as a state by state analysis of the election with a view proving that Atiku defeated President Buhari with over 1.6m votes.
The three data analysts alleged that results they analyzed showed that Atiku’s votes were deliberately depleted, while that of Buhari and APC were inflated.
APC, however, urged the Supreme Court to discountenance all their testimonies as well as video clips the petitioners tendered from the Bar.
The APC argued that the tribunal erred in law when it held that evidence and documents of the three witnesses were considered in the interest of natural justice.
It argued that the decision of the tribunal on the point was untenable on the ground that the issue of admissibility or otherwise of a document, is a point of law and not natural justice as erroneously held by the panel.
More so, it applied for an order of the apex court, striking out Atiku’s allegation that the election was rigged against him in 11 focal states in the Northern part of the country, arguing that his allegation on electoral malpractice was vague and not specific as required by law.
It argued that the petitioners did not state the specific polling units where the alleged fraud was committed, hence they must be expunged for not containing any substance to merit any consideration by the tribunal.
It will be recalled that both Atiku and the PDP had on September 23, listed 66 reasons why the Supreme Court should set aside the judgement of the tribunal which they said was not only “perverse”, but occasioned “grave miscarriage of justice” against them.
They argued that the tribunal erred in law by declaring that President Buhari was “eminently qualified” to contest for the presidency, despite the allegation that he lacked the basic educational qualifications.
Aside from praying the apex court to declare Atiku as the legitimate winner of the presidential contest, in the alternative, the appellants, sought to for the election to be nullified with an order compelling INEC to conduct a fresh poll.
Meantime, the Supreme Court had yet to fix a date to hear the appeals.