Presidential election tribunal: Buhari opposes admission of own bio-data at tribunal
• How we transmitted results to INEC server, by witnesses
• Court reserves judgment on president's academic qualification
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday objected to the admission of his Form CF001, which contained his personal data submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the February 23 presidential election.His objection was announced at the resumed hearing of the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Buhari's lead counsel, Chief Wale Olanipekun (SAN), while objecting to the admission of the form, said his reasons would be made public at the address stage. Atiku and his party had tendered the form with a view to establishing their petition against Buhari on his qualification for the last presidential election.
Atiku also tendered the final result of the election as signed by the INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood. This was admitted as exhibit. Also tendered and admitted as exhibits were documents containing the total number of voters in INEC's register and the number of collected permanent voter cards for the election. Atiku's lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, equally tendered six newspapers publications and 10 press statements issued by INEC in respect of the election.
So far, about 6,806 election result sheets from Kano and Zamfara States were tendered and admitted by the tribunal in evidence. Atiku and the PDP thereafter began calling witnesses to testify to allegations of election malpractices, corruption, irregularities and violence in the conduct of the election that produced Buhari as president.
The first witness was Buba Galadima, a spokesperson for the Atiku Campaign Organisation and former ally of Buhari. He stated under cross-examination by Buhari's counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, that he supported Buhari in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 presidential elections but parted ways with him due to his alleged unfulfilled promises. Galadima further told the tribunal that he supported Atiku in the 2019 election because he was a better candidate, who is educated, God-fearing and capable of providing good governance.
The witness however denied parting ways with Buhari because he had been denied privileges. He insisted that Buhari failed to protect the life and property of citizens and did not allow the prevalence of the rule of law. Still under cross-examination by the APC counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, Galadima told the tribunal that he was not a member of the PDP and that his party – Reformed All Progressives Congress (RAPC) – had a Memorandum of Understanding with Atiku and the PDP on how to make life bearable for Nigerians, ensure security and make allowance for the rule of law.
The next petitioner's witness, Ijeoma Obi, who said he was an Information Communications and Technology (ICT) expert, admitted transmitting results from polling units to the INEC server in his capacity as Registration Area Technician who was trained and shortlisted by INEC for the election.
Another, Adejuyitan Olalekan, also accepted that he transmitted election results to INEC server. He told the tribunal that INEC's server was automatic and embedded in the Smart Card Reader for the purpose of transmitting results. “I personally transmitted election results to INEC server through the code provided by INEC. There was no instruction from INEC to us to allow election manually in case the card reader refuses to function,” he said.
Under cross-examination by Olanipekun however the witness said he did not know Buhari as second respondent in Atiku's petition. Still under cross-examination by Fagbemi, he admitted not serving as presiding officer for INEC, saying he was only shortlisted by the electoral body. Adedokun Adeoye, an Assistant Presiding Officer to INEC, was the fourth witness. He equally admitted that he transmitted election results to the server. He however could not answer a question on whether as Assistant Presiding Officer (1), he was authorised to conduct elections and transmit results personally to the server.He stated that INEC guidelines did not show him anything to that effect. He was also unable to give the code number and the server to which the results were transmitted.
The fifth witness was one Mohammed Tata, who alleged that elections were not conducted in his polling unit. An agent of the PDP in the February 23 presidential election, he told the tribunal: “I am a true Muslim. I believe in destiny. I am not bothered about who wins the poll, whether APC or PDP. All I want in my country is justice. I am not happy with what happened. There was no election in my area.”
The sixth, Mustapha Bello, another PDP agent in Jigawa State, alleged voter intimidation and harassment. But under cross-examination, he admitted to voting during the poll.Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, yesterday reserved judgment in the appeal filed against Buhari's academic qualification for the election.
The three-member panel of the appellate court, presided over by Justice Atinuke Akomolafe-Wilson, reserved judgment after listening to the argument canvassed by the counsel to parties in the suit.The counsel to the appellant, Ukpai Ukairo, insisted Buhari was not educationally qualified to have stood for the poll on the grounds that the required certificates were not attached to his Form CF001 submitted to INEC for clearance to contest the election.
The counsel denied the claim that the suit of the appellant was statute barred, stating that the case was instituted on November 5, 2018 within the 14 days allowed by law. He said the cause of action started with the announcement and publication by INEC of successful candidates for the 2019 general election on October 25, 2018. Ukairo therefore urged the Court of Appeal to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the Federal High Court on the grounds of miscarriage of justice.
He asked the court to nullify Buhari's participation in the February 23 presidential election because he was not educationally qualified for the poll at the time he did.But the counsel to the first and second respondents urged the court to dismiss the appeal for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Buhari's counsel, Abdullahi Abubakar, specifically told the Appeal Court that the case of the appellant was statute barred, not having been filed within the mandatory period stipulated by the law.He urged the court to uphold the decision of the Federal High Court to the effect that the suit was not filed in line with the position of the law.
The Counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Babatunde Ogala, urged the court to dismiss the appeal, while counsel to INEC, Onyeri Anthony, said the commission was neutral and would abide by the decision of the court. Kalu, Ismail and El-Kuris had approached the appellate court to nullify and set aside the judgment of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court which declined to hear their suit instituted to challenge the educational qualification of Buhari before the conduct of the 2019 general election.
The appellants are asking the court to reverse the judgment of Justice Ahmed Mohammed on the ground that the processes filed by Buhari and used to strike out their suit were not competent.While faulting the judgment of the lower court, which was predicated on the ground that the suit was statute barred, the appellants claimed that the Federal High Court erred in law and in its decision because it did not challenge the primary election that produced Buhari as candidate of the APC.
They therefore urged the Court of Appeal to assume jurisdiction over the suit and grant all the reliefs sought at the Federal High Court but which were refused.Among the reliefs was a declaration that Buhari submitted false information regarding his qualification and certificate to INEC and should be disqualified.
They also prayed for an order of court directing INEC to remove Buhari's name as a candidate of the APC and another order restraining Buhari from parading himself as a candidate in the 2019 presidential election, and also APC from recognising Buhari as a candidate.The Federal High Court had on May 2 declined to grant the request of the appellants on the grounds that the suit was not filed within the time allowed by law and therefore sustained the preliminary objection raised by Buhari at the hearing.
Dissatisfied, the appellants are now asking the Court of Appeal to grant their reliefs because they are not challenging the primary election of APC as erroneously held by the lower court but the qualification of Buhari to stand for the presidential election without demonstrating his educational certificates as required by law.