The Supreme Court on Friday said all allegations raised by the Peoples Democratic Party and Atiku Abubakar, challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the February 23 presidential election, were unproven.
Reacting, the Presidency welcomed the explanations given by the Supreme Court over the ruling on the PDP petition.
Inexplicably, the opposition party, Atiku, and his lawyers were conspicuously absent in court, in a move seen as a quiet form of protest.
According to the Presidency, through one of its spokesmen, Mr. Garba Shehu, the reasons addicted by the apex court on Friday for its judgment two weeks ago reiterates that the onus of proof must necessarily fall on those that challenge the vote.
“Allegations must be substantiated if they are to hold, and this requires producing credible witnesses that verify key claims. As the Supreme Court has stated, the case failed this test,” the statement added.
Atiku, a former vice-president who contested the election against Buhari, claimed he won the election.
Justice Inyang Okoro said this while giving reasons why the apex court on October 30 dismissed the appellants’ appeal that challenged the judgment of the presidential tribunal.
News Agency of Nigeria reports that the appellants had claimed that the tribunal erred in addressing all the issues raised in petition.
NAN further reports that the issues brought before the tribunal bordered on the qualification, electoral malpractice, and transmission of election results electronically, among others.
In the circumstance, the appellant prayed the tribunal to rule all the issues in their favour and return Atiku as winner of the election.
However, Okoro, who provided the definitive reasons by seven-man panel of justices, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, also held that: “the appeal lacked any scintilla of merit and therefore needed to be dismissed.”
On allegations on the president’s qualification, Okoro said Buhari was eminently qualified to contest the election as sufficient evidence was adduced to confirm both his educational and candidature status that were accepted by INEC.
Okoro, therefore, upheld the decision of the tribunal on the issues around the president’s qualification and possession of relevant certificates was legendary.
The judge also said that Buhari was not liable of any irregularities and corrupt practices before, during and after the election as claimed by the appellants.
He also said the president was not under any obligations to attach his credentials to his INEC nomination form as contested by the appellants, adding that such demand was not provided for by the Constitution.
On the allegation of the use of server by INEC in transmitting results of the election to a central point, Okoro, said PDP and Atiku failed woefully by not providing evidence to substantiate such an allegation.
“They were wrong to have relied on the so called results obtained from a website not maintained by the electoral umpire, adding that the claim by Atiku that he won the election based on information from such a clandestine source was questionable.
“I agree entirely with the court below that the appellants failed to prove that INEC has the server from which they got their figures.
“As a result, all the results, calculations and analysis based on the results from such a source that did not belong to INEC are of no moment,’’ the judge said.
On allegations of over voting, violence and malpractices, Okoro held that the failure of the appellants to call credible witnesses was fatal to their case, adding that five witnesses invited to prove such allegations was unimaginable.
According to the judge, most of the issues raised by the appellants were based on to prove hearsay evidence, adding that the apex court could not grant prayers that were not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
“We are of the conviction that the lower court did a good job based on the evidence brought before it by the appellants. We also unanimously dismissed the appeal as all five issues remained unproven,’’ the judge said.
The Presidency adds that on the issue of qualifications, President Buhari has a long history of service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The questioning of this fact seems to fly in the face of all evidence.
However, now it is time for the PDP to take up the service mandated by this election.
The legislative agenda of the ninth assembly is ambitious in both size and scope. It is critical the opposition is there to scrutinise bills and policies, rather than preoccupy themselves with unsustainable court cases.
We appreciate the PDP and their candidate for taking these claims to courts rather than expressing them in other ways, but now Nigeria needs a robust and rigorous opposition. The nation needs to move on.
While it is correct to give credit to the courts for affirming this electoral victory-and we commend the courage of the bench to arrive at the right conclusion given manifest and subtle pressures to do otherwise-the reality is that courts were convinced by arguments from the lawyers representing the APC and its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari that results reflected the true wishes of a majority of our citizens.
President Buhari won four million more votes than his closest rival, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the February poll.
No serious electoral observers have challenged this result. And now the Supreme Court has explained why the PDP appeal is unsubstantiated. We hope this finally puts the matter behind us.
We should now grasp this moment to move forward – together.
Additional reports by NAN