The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal is set to deliver judgement not later than 13th of September, 2019.
The initial date of September 15 is no longer realistic because it is a Sunday. A source at the court told LEADERSHIP last night that the judgement will be delivered on September 13.
Section 134 (1) to (3) of the Electoral Act provides that an election petition should be filed, heard and determined within 180 days.
The section was inserted into the Electoral Act following a situation where election petitions took up to four years before being resolved, leading to the disruption of the political process in the country.
According to the source, ‘’the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the February 23 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party, will definitely be decided before September 15.
‘’They (the tribunal) cannot go beyond that date in deciding the petition one way or the other because by law, that is how far they can go in the case. They can’t sit beyond that day. They are not permitted to do so by law. The 180 days stipulated by the law will elapse that day,’’ he said.
When Atiku filed his petition on March 18, 2019, he told the tribunal that he and his party had assembled about 400 witnesses to prove his case against President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was declared the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The tribunal, headed by Justice Mohammed Garba, which began its inaugural sitting on May 7, reserved the petition for judgement on August 21 after hearing the arguments of the parties before it.
Atiku said that the election was marred by irregularities, adding that the president is not qualified and shouldn’t have been allowed to contest the election.
Last week, Atiku in his final address insisted that Buhari lied on oath in his form CF001 which he presented to INEC before standing for the contest.
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 Buhari’s form with INEC where he claimed to have three different certificates comprising primary school leaving certificate, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate and Officer Cadet’s certificate.
The petitioners said that it was shocking that “no provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certificates, no photocopy of the certificates and in fact, no electronic version of any of the certificates were presented by Buhari throughout the hearing of the petition to dispute their claims.
“More worrisome is the fact that Buhari’s own witness Maj-Gen. Paul Tarfa (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,” he said.
Atiku, therefore, urged the tribunal to nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that he lied on oath to deceive Nigerians and to secure unlawful qualification for the election.
The former vice president further 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 also do so, adding that a grave allegation bordering on certificate was not addressed by the president as required by law.
The PDP presidential candidate also faulted the claim by INEC that it had no central server, adding that a server is a storage facility including computers where database of registered voters, number of permanent voter cards and election results amongst others are stored for references.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to uphold the petition and nullified the participation of Buhari in the election on the ground that he was not qualified to have stood for the election, in addition to malpractices that prompted his declaration as the winner.
But, 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.
Usman insisted that INEC did not transmit election results electronically because doing so was 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 legal team argued that Atiku’s petition was liable to be dismissed because it was lacking in evidence, merit and substance and that the petition is ill-advised and signified nothing.
He cited Section 131 of the constitution which stipulates a minimum of secondary school attendance to qualify for the election in Nigeria, adding that he cannot go beyond that and that he does not need to tender or attached certificates before he can get qualification for any election.
The APC represented by Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) in its submission said that the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the nullification of the election as pleaded by the petitioners and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition as long as its hand can do with huge cost.