The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has reserved judgement on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s allegation that security operatives had harassed voters likely to be supporters of the PDP during the 2019 presidential election.
The PDP had in its petition accused the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, and major government agencies including INEC and security agencies of culpability in the manipulation of election results to the benefit of Mr Buhari.
However, Justice Mohammed Garba stated that the police needed to be invited for fair hearing on the allegation levelled against them by the PDP, hence, judgement should be reserved on the matter.
Recall that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Presidential Candidate Atiku Abubakar is challenging the election victory of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All progressives Congress, APC, during the 2019 general elections.
Justice Mohammed Garba, who heads the five-man panel at the opening of today’s session, said that reserved rulings on applications taken during the pre-hearing session will be delivered first before the judgment.
The first application to be ruled upon by tribunal is the one filed by INEC (the 1st respondent) asking the tribunal to strike out the petition on the grounds that the petitioners failed to join the vice-presidential candidate of the APC, Yemi Osinbajo, as a party to the petition.
The tribunal, while considering the INEC’s claim that the petitioners’ Ground E is a pre-election issue and thus incompetent said in the petitioners’ ground E, that it was alleged that Buhari gave false information of fundamental nature in the affidavit submitted to INEC to aid his qualification to contest the election.
Again, the tribunal held that the ground D of the petition challenged by INEC was valid and competent.
“It says that by virtue of section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, the ground D having to do with non-qualification of Buhari to contest the election is both a pre-election and post-election issue.
The tribunal, considering the aspect of INEC’s motion which says some of the grounds of the petition constitute a pre-election matter said it ought to have been filed in court within 14 days after the cause of action arose.
The tribunal said pre-election issues referred to by INEC are the allegations by the petitioners that Buhari was not qualified to contest the February 23 poll and that Buhari gave false information in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC.
Justice Garba noted that INEC appears to have made a detour by not further responding to Uzoukwu’s claims.
The INEC’s motion claimed that the petitioners’ lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, who signed the petitioners’ list of witnesses and other documents was not on the roll of lawyers kept by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court and as such cannot practise law in Nigeria.
The tribunal ruled that that documents signed by Uzoukwu as a lawyer whose name appears on the rolls of the Supreme Court were validly and competently filed.
The tribunal on its part said if the allegation is found to be true all the documents of the petitioners will be struck out.
The second ruling is on another motion filed by INEC on April 25.
The application by INEC seeks among others, the striking out of: 1. The petitioners’ list of documents relied on by the petition, 2. Petitioners’ list of witnesses, 3. Some paragraphs of the petition.
The tribunal unanimously dismissed INEC’s motion which Justice Garba describes as not being well-grounded in law.
Ruling on the issue, Justice Garba said he finds no merit in the prayer of the applicant.