By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The Supreme Court will on Friday November 15 explain to Nigerians and the international community its reasons behind the dismissal of appeal of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which challenged the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential election.
The apex court had in a unanimous summary judgment delivered on October 30, dismissed the appeal filed by Atiku and the PDP.
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, while delivering the summary judgment had announced that the court would later offer its reasons to the general public on why it dismissed the appeal the way it did.
Atiku and PDP had in their joint appeal filed in September, challenged the entire judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which had affirmed the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The final bus-stop court, made up of a seven-member panel of Justices in this case, dismissed the appeal in less than one hour after it was heard.
“Having gone through the briefs for over two weeks we have come to the conclusion that this appeal lacks merit. This appeal is hereby dismissed. Reason will be given at a date to be communicated to parties”, the CJN who presided over the appeal had held.
However, nearly two weeks after the judgment, the apex court on Wednesday notified lawyers to parties in the appeal that it has fixed Friday November 15, 2019, to make its reasons for dismissing the appeal known.
The notice to lawyers in the matter, a soft copy sighted by our correspondent , dated November 13, 2019, was signed by one Ibrahim Gold, a Registrar at the Supreme Court.
It reads, “IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA HOLDEN AT ABUJA.
SC 1211/2019: Atiku Abubakar & anor V. INEC & 2 Ors.
“TAKE NOTICE that the REASONS FOR THE JUDGEMENT delivered on Wednesday the 30th day of October 2019 in the above named Appeal will be listed before the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday the 15th day of November, 2019 at 9.00am.
“AND FURTHER TAKE NOTICE that in accordance with the Supreme Court Rules, this Notice is deemed sufficiently served on you if it is delivered on your telephone”.
The expected reasons to be offered will likely put to rest various speculations by lawyers and insinuations by politicians about the action of the apex court or even raise fresh ones.
It will be recalled that shortly after the judgment, lawyers to the appellants faulted the nation’s electoral laws, blaming it for the loss of their clients.
In his immediate reaction to the verdict of the apex court, lead counsel to the appellants , Dr Livy Uzuokwu SAN, while expressing shock blamed the loss of their clients on the state of the nation’s law which according to him needed urgent amendment.
According to him, Atiku gave a good fight but lost to the Nigerian factor.
He said that the decision of the court, especially the reasons for dismissing the appeal would be carefully studied when released and that comprehensive reaction would be made public.
“I don’t want to speculate until they give their reasons. No reason has been given, we have done our best, our clients have done their best and the rest is for Nigerians.
“But let me say this, unless something drastically is done to electoral jurisprudence in this country there will be problem because it is now becoming obvious that petitioners will always find it difficult to prosecute their cases. But all said until they give their reasons, we will take it up from there”, Uzuokwu said.
In a similar vein another lawyer in the team of Atiku and PDP, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, also faulted the electoral laws particularly the period within which a petitioner must file his petition and present same for adjudication.
Ozekhome stated that the constitutional provisions within which a petition can be determined in totality is like a rock of Gibraltar that cannot be shifted or moved for now, no matter the grievances of any contestant in a rigged election.
The senior lawyer averred that it was good that a baby has been delivered and not aborted, adding that whether the baby is malfunctioning is another thing for the history.
“What manner of baby it is, what ingredients make up the being of the baby we do not know yet, those are the reasons the apex court said they will tell Nigerians and the rest of the world for dismissing this appeal as lacking in merit.
“Electoral jurisprudence has been there, election petition are suogeneris (time bound), as far as we are concerned, we have done our best under the strangulating regime of electoral jurisprudence which not only places undue burdens on the petitioners but also time lines the period within which such burden must be discharged with the Supreme Court itself saying that the time lag provided by the constitution is like the Rock of Gibraltar that cannot be moved”, he said.
According to the senior lawyer, the law is so made that while you are being beaten you are not allowed to cry.
He said that the law should be made to restore the confidence of people so that, “when they vote their votes would not only be counted but that such votes must also count.
On his part counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, lauded the apex court for doing justice in the matter.
“We want to appreciate and commend the Supreme Court for rising to the occasion. That is the way it should be and the judiciary has done well.
“For us as counsels, we have done our best, both for petitioners and respondents. And as lawyers this is how far we have gone and we cannot say more than that”, Olanipekun said.
Also counsel to the All Progressive Congress, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN said with the verdict every issue surrounding the election of President Buhari has been put to rest.
“The chapters, paragraphs and lines having to do with the 2019 election especially the presidential aspects has been laid to rest until 2023.
“It has been a night of long knives, but we thank God that it has ended peacefully”.
Also counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, Yunus Usman SAN, noted that the verdict has also rested the contentious issue of electronic voting, adding that once the Electoral Act is amended the commission would not hesitate to abide by it.
He said, “I am very happy and we should thank God that we have the type of judges we have at the Supreme Court, and this server issue, thank God it has been laid to rest.
“INEC has never said it has no server but this particular server they are claiming www.factdontlienigeria.com, we say INEC does not have that type of server and they said it was through that server that results were transmitted”.
Usman said even if they were right INEC has no power to transmit election results electronically until the Electoral Act is amended.
“If the act is amended then INEC will operate with the new law”, he said.
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal had on September 11 dismissed the petition of Atiku and PDP against the election of Buhari on the grounds that the petitioners failed to substantiate the allegations made in their petition.
By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja