Tribunal Affirms Buhari’s Victory

The Presidential election tribunal rules that President Muhammadu Buhari validly won the presidential election and was qualified to contest.

The Presidential election tribunal sitting at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, Wednesday evening, affirmed the re-election of Muhammadu Buhari as president of Nigeria. In a unanimous judgment read by Justice Mohammed Garba, the five-man-panel held that Atiku Abubakar, People’s Democratic Party, PDP presidential candidate and his party failed to prove any of the five issues formulated for determination.

The other members of the tribunal, Justice Peter Olabisi-Ige, Justice Abdul Aboki, Justice Joseph Ikyegh and Justice Samuel Oseji, concurred with the lead judgment.

Abubakar and PDP had in their joint petition filed on March 18 alleged Buhari’s non-qualification, massive non-compliance with the electoral guidelines, not holding of elections in some polling units, cancellation of results, over-voting, inflation and deflation of votes.

According to the petitioners, data from INEC server, collated from the states showed that Atiku polled 18,356,732 votes to Buhari’s 16,741,430, a margin of 1,615,302 votes. However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Buhari winner with 15,191,847 votes against Abubakar’s 11,262,978 votes.

In their ruling, the tribunal held that the data from the anonymous website was hearsay and of no substantial value.

“The petitioners have a duty to prove all the allegations which are criminal in nature beyond reasonable doubt. The petitioners pleaded that so many of their agents were situated in various polling units and that members of the first respondents connived with security agents to conduct massive rigging. They also alleged that no real voting took place in Dekina Local Government Area, among others.”

The tribunal held that the petitioners did not prove their case as they could not call the polling unit agents to testify that they were arrested, harassed or affected by the violence alleged by the petitioners.

“There is no admissible evidence on record to support the petitioner’s allegations. Like I had mentioned, there is no admissible evidence to link the witnesses with the allegations of non-compliance to the electoral act or of corruption, This petition is accordingly and hereby dismissed in its entirety.”

On the controversial INEC server, the Tribunal held that David Njorga, Kenyan Information, and Communication Technology expert, invited as the 59th witnesses to establish the claim that INEC transmitted results to a server during the last presidential election was based on ‘hearsay’ from a third party.

“The author of the content revealing the information from the said server claimed to be an INEC staff. This to me is unreliable for any information that should be relied on by an expert. Whatever he got came from the server belonging to the whistleblower and not INEC. Under cross-examination, he admitted that the information on the website could have been doctored. His evidence is hanging on third party information from an unknown source. The law is clear on hearsay evidence,” Justice Garba stated.

The tribunal also held that the petitioners failed to prove substantial non-compliance of the electoral act in the 11 states complained to have been marred by electoral malpractices. They alleged arbitrary allocation of figures, result sheets not showing results of all political parties that participated in the election, intimidation.

“In other to prove these, witnesses ought to be called from each of those units who were eyewitnesses to the allegations to testify, but the petitioners did not call witnesses who are tied to the documents tendered. Even at that, the evidence of some polling units called by the petitioners cannot take the place of voters who were said to have been disenfranchised. Because there was no eyewitness account and no evidence by the petitioners the court cannot decide in favour of the petitioners as far as allegations of malpractices and irregularities are concerned.”

Justice Garba ruled that the petitioners also failed to prove that security agencies connived with the electoral umpire to manipulate the election results in the 11 states in favour of APC.

“They also failed to prove that fake policemen were deployed by the APC to influence the election. They also failed to prove allegations that the president retained the services of the service chiefs to use them to manipulate the election. It is their further allegation that in all the states of the federation military and police officers firmed themselves as supporters of the second respondent to attack, harass and stop the supporters of the petitioners from exercising their franchise.”

“There is no admissible evidence on record to back the claims of the petitioners.” 

In his reaction to the ruling, Femi Adesina, special adviser to the President on media and publicity, said the tribunal has vindicated the President.

President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said that he was unperturbed all along and the verdict has vindicated their victory at the February 23 election.

“Good conscience fears no evil report. I was unperturbed all along because I knew Nigerians freely gave us the mandate. We are now vindicated.”

“He dedicates the victory to God, and to Nigerians, while also commending the judiciary for “dispensing justice without fear or favour.”

“President Buhari extends a hand of fellowship to those who had felt aggrieved at the outcome of the election, and went to court, noting that it was within their democratic rights.

“it is time for the country to move forward as one cohesive body, putting behind us all bickering and potential distractions over an election in which Nigerians spoke clearly and resoundingly,” the statement added.

However, the PDP, in a statement, described the judgment by the 5-man panel as ‘subversion of justice and direct assault on the integrity of our nation’s justice system”.

According to the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the tribunal failed to point to justice despite the pieces of evidence laid before it by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

“The party is particularly shocked that the tribunal failed to point to justice despite the flawless evidence laid before it, showing that President Buhari was not only unqualified to contest the election but also did not score the majority of valid votes at the polls.

“The PDP finds as bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Muhammadu Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.”

“The PDP also described as shocking that the court approved the flawed declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the election despite evidence to show the perpetration of illegalities, manipulations, alterations, and subtraction of valid votes freely given to Atiku Abubakar by Nigerians.

“Indeed, the pervading melancholic atmosphere across our nation since the verdict is a direct indication that the judgment has not fulfilled the desires and expectations of Nigerians.”

“The PDP, however, encouraged Nigerians to remain calm and not to lose hope or surrender to despondency or self-help, as our lawyers are upbeat in obtaining justice at the Supreme Court.

“This is more so as the tribunal itself admitted that there are several errors in the judgment.”

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