Presidential election: Tribunal commences hearing on Atiku’s, other petitions against Buhari, APC

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal will Wednesday, May 8, formally commence hearing in the petitions filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his party, the PDP and three other political parties and their presidential candidates against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC)

Atiku, PDP and the others, in their various petitions, are seeking the nullification of Buhari’s victory at the February 23 presidential poll on allegations of widespread rigging, violations of the Electoral Act, suppression of voters, violence amongst other electoral malpractices.

The others include: the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Owuru; Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and its presidential candidate, Pastor Aminchi Habu and the Coalition for Change (C4C) and its presidential candidate, Jeff Ojinka.

Atiku, in his petition, specifically asked the tribunal to disqualify Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential election, on the grounds that he (Buhari) did not possess the requisite academic qualification to contest for the office of President.

The petition, which is premised on five grounds, alleged that Buhari lied about his academic qualification as well as schools attended in his form 001 submitted to INEC for purpose of contesting the 2019 presidential election.

Atiku and PDP had filed their petition against the outcome of the election at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) in Abuja, on March 18, 2019.

While the HDP and Owuru’s petition marked CA/EPT/PRE/001/2019, was filed March 7, the petition of the C4C along with its presidential candidate and that of the PDM and its presidential candidate were file same day, March 19, 2019.

However, a statement by the Media Officer of the Court of Appeal, Saadatu Musa Kachalla, on Tuesday, said that the “Presidential Election Petition Tribunal Panel will begin its inaugural session on Wednesday, 8th May 2019 at the Abuja Division courtroom. Time 9.00am”.

While Atiku and the PDP, in grounds 1-3 of their petition, specifically attacked the conduct of the February 23, presidential election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), they asked the tribunal on grounds 3-5 to disqualify Buhari on the grounds that he was not qualified to have contested the election in the first place and as such all votes accredited to him by INEC should be declared as wasted votes.

Owuru, Habu and Ojinka, in their separate petitions, however, prayed the tribunal to nullify the election of Buhari on grounds of alleged massive rigging of the February 23 presidential election as well as substantial non compliance with provisions of the law by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Respondents in the petitions are: President Buhari, APC and INEC. However, unlike in all the other petitions, the C4C had included the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as the 2nd Respondent, with APC and INEC, as 3rd and 4th respectively in its petition.

The HDP and Owuru, in their petition marked CA/EPT/PRE/001/2019, dated March 6 and filed March 7, is praying the tribunal to nullify the election of February 23 and the subsequent declaration of Buhari as the winner on the grounds that INEC has no power under any law to shift the February 16 date to 23.

The two petitioners who claimed to have been excluded from participating in the February 23 poll, averred that the election was invalid by reason of non compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act which stipulate the conditions under which election can be lawfully postponed.

Their main grouse was that they were validly nominated for the 2019 general election, but were unlawfully excluded from the said elections by INEC which de-listed their names and party logo from the ballot papers.

They, however, asserted that they will at the trial, lead evidence and rely on the laws in support of their petitions to establish that the shifting of the election from February 16 to 23 was without the force of law and powers to do so.

Another grouse of the petitioners was that INEC placed a false version of their registered party logo on the ballot papers for elections and that cost them the chances of realising their political ambition in the 2019 general election.

However, Buhari, the APC and INEC have, in their separate replies, urged the tribunal to uphold Buhari’s victory at the February 23 poll and dismiss the various petitions on grounds that the allegations against the conduct of the election were baseless, unsubstantiated and lacking in merit.

Buhari, in his reply, specifically urged the tribunal to disregard Atiku’s petition on the grounds that he was not qualified to have contested the election in the first place on the grounds of his nationality.