The die is cast, but its result will be known only in the next 17 hours when the Presidential Election Petition tribunal, will deliver a landmark judgment in the petition of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential poll.
Contrary to the speculations across political divide that the verdict may be handed down this Friday, the tribunal in a notice of hearing conveyed to parties in the petition through text messages and telephone calls, announced its resolution to make its findings and final decision on the petition public on Wednesday.
Atiku and PDP had March 18 dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Buhari, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) before the Justice Mohammed Garba led tribunal, praying for The nullification of Buhari’s election on various grounds ranging from Buhari’s non qualification to stand for the election, election malpractices, alteration of election results, and violence amongst others.
To establish his petition, Atiku during the hearing called 62 witnesses and tendered several documents and video clips before the tribunal, while Buhari on the other hand called seven witnesses and also tendered documents to prove that he genuinely won the election.
The APC and INEC did not call any witness but chose to use the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses to support their defense.
The petitioners had at the last leg of the hearing in the petition alleged Buhari used fundamental falsehood to secure clearance from INEC to participate in the poll.
Atiku in his final address insisted that Buhari, as candidate of APC, lied on oath in his form CF001 presented to INEC before standing for the presidential election.
In the final address presented on his behalf by his lead counsel, Dr Levy Uzuokwu SAN, Atiku drew the attention of the Tribunal to a portion of his INEC form where he claimed to have three different certificates; comprising Primary School leaving certificate, WAEC certifcate and Officers Cadet certifcate.
The petitioners said it was shocking and surprising that, “no provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certifcates, no photocopy of certifcates and infact no electronic version of any of the certifcates was presented by Buhari throughout the hearing of the petition to dispute the claim of the petitioners.
“More worrisome is the fact that Buhari’s own witness Major General Paul Tafa Rtd, who joined the Nigerian Army with him in 1962 told the tribunal that they were never asked to submit their certificates to the Nigerian Army Board as claimed by Buhari in his form CF001.
“At any rate the Secretary of the Nigerian Army Board, Olatunde Olaleye had in a statement clarified that Buhari had no single certificate in his personal file with the Nigerian Army”.
Atiku therefore urged the tribunal to nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that Buhari lied on oath to deceive Nigerians and to secure unlawful qualification for the election.
The former Vice President informed the tribunal that the claim of Buhari that he can read and write in English language as enough qualification for him was of no moment because ordinary artisans on the streets of Nigeria can also do so, adding that a grave allegation bordering on certificate was not addressed by Buhari as required by law.
The PDP presidential candidate also faulted the claim of INEC that it has no central server, adding that server is a storage facility including computer where database of registered voters, number of permanent voter cards and election results amongst others are stored for references.
He said the claim by INEC that it has no device like server to store information, “is laughable, tragic and a story for the dogs”.
Atiku’s lawyer in the final address debunked the claim of INEC that collation and transmission of results electronically was prohibited by law in Nigeria.
He asserted that by Electoral Amendment Act of March 26, 2015, the use of electronics became law and was officially gazetted for the country, adding that section 9 of the Act which made provision for electronic collation of results replaced section 52 which hitherto prohibited the use of electronics and which INEC erroneously held that electronic results transmission is prohibited.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to uphold the petition and nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that he was not qualified to have stood for the election, in addition to malpractices that prompted his declaration as winner of the election.
However, INEC represented by Yunus Usman SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost because the electoral body conducted the election in total compliance with the Nigerian constitution and Electoral Act 2010 and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
Usman insisted that INEC did not transmit election results electronically because doing so is prohibited by law and that the Commission did not call any witness because there was no need to do so.
In his defence, President Buhari through his counsel Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, argued that Atiku’s petition was liable to be dismissed because it is lacking in evidence, merit and substance and that the petition is ill-advised and signified nothing.
Olanipekun cited section 131 of the Constitution which stipulated a minimum of secondary school attendance to qualify for election in Nigeria, adding that Buhari cannot go beyond that and that he does not need to tender or attach a certificate before he can get qualification for any election.
He averred that there was nothing in law to persuade the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election as pleaded by Atiku and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost.
The APC represented by Prince Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi SAN, in his own submission said the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the nullification of the election as pleaded by the petitioners and urged the tribunal to throw out the petition as long as its hand can do with huge cost.
Fagbemi told the tribunal that the petitioners called 62 witnesses only in a failed attempt to prove their allegations concerning 119,793 pulling units, 8, 809 wards and 774 local government areas and local area councils being challenged by the petitioners.
He added that the witnesses were from 11 states only including the FCT. Fagbemi further argued that the allegations of non accreditation, invalid votes, deliberate depletion of petitioners vote, anomalies, over voting, wrongful collation of results in favour of Buhari and APC as well as corrupt practices have been effectively denied by the two respondents as being unfounded and non existent.
Fagbemi contended that the failure to call witnesses across the states of the federation by the petitioners to establish their allegations as envisaged by law is fatal to the petition and made it liable for dismissal by the tribunal.
The Tribunal Chairman after taking submissions from all parties had announced that judgment in the petition had been reserved and that the date for its delivery would be communicated to parties.
At the time of this report security has been beefed up within the vicinity of the Court of Appeal Headquarters, serving as venue for the tribunal.