From Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has reserved judgment in petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) challenging the conduct of the February 23 presidential election and the return of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The tribunal reserved judgment in the petition on Monday after parties in the petition had adopted their final written addresses to establish their cases and as well defence in the petition.
Adopting the HDP’s final address, its lead counsel, Mr. Chukwunoyerem Njoku urged the tribunal to set aside the election of February 23 on the ground that the electoral body did not follow conditions precedent in the Electoral Act, 2010 before postponing the election earlier scheduled for February 16.
Njoku informed the tribunal that because INEC did not follow the condition precedent before postponing the election constitutionally, a referendum was conducted in line with the law and that the presidential candidate of the HDP, Chief Albert Ambrose Owuru, emerged winner of the referendum with over fifty million votes.
Njoku submitted that Nigerian citizens participated in the February 16, 2019 referendum as required by law and urged the tribunal to nullify the declaration of president Buhari by INEC as president and in his place restore Owuru as the authentic winner.
The counsel argued that Buhari cannot be said to be president on the strength February 23 election because the purported election was without merit.
Specifically, the two petitioners who described the election as unlawful, unconstitutional and illegal prayed the tribunal to void the poll and declared them as the lawful winners of the 2019 Presidential election on the strength of the February 16 referendum.
However President Muhammadu Buhari represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that it is frivolous, baseless and lacking in merit.
Olanipekun told the tribunal that the petitioners did not in any way adduce evidence on how the referendum was conducted and who conducted it in line with the provisions of the law.
President Buhari’s counsel further told the tribunal that he had carefully studied the final address of the HDP and its presidential candidate and found that there was nowhere in the address that they made any case against President Muhammadu Buhari.
The electoral body through its lead counsel, Mr. Yunus Usman SAN, while adopting his final address urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost to serve as a deterrent to those who may wish to file frivolous and baseless petitions in the 2023 elections.
Usman argued that the petition lacked merit because INEC conducted an election known to law and not a referendum and that the claims of the two petitioners are strange to the electoral umpire and the law itself.
He therefore urged the tribunal to uphold the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 lawful presidential election.
The All Progressive Congress represented by Chief Akin Olujinmi SAN, in its own final address, demanded for a dismissal of the petition because it is lacking in merit and wholly misconceived by the two petitioners.
The tribunal headed by Justice Mohammed Garba reserved judgment in the petition till a date to be communicated to parties in the matter.
Owuru and HDP had petitioned Buhari, INEC and APC praying for nullification of the February 23 election on the ground that INEC acted in violation of the law by shifting the election from February 16 to 23 without meeting conditions precedents.
The two petitioners also alleged that a fake version of their party logo was on the ballot paper used by INEC and therefore prayed for the cancelation of the poll on the ground of unlawful exclusion.
The party also queried the qualification of Buhari to stand for the election and canvased among others that the president be disqualified having not met the minimum qualification to stand for election Nigeria.