The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, have formally approached the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which dismissed their petition against the result of the February 23 election that returned President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office.
The party and candidate are seeking an order or declaration that the election to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held or conducted by the 1st Respondent on 23rd February, 2019 be nullified and a fresh election ordered.
The appeal, predicated on 66 grounds, included the claim that the judgment of the Tribunal was a miscarriage of justice.
The appellants further argue that the Tribunal erred in law “when they relied on ‘overall interest of justice’, to hold that the 2nd Respondent’s Exhibits R1 to R26, P85, and P86 were properly admitted in evidence.”
They also allege, among other reasons, that the Tribunal erred in law “when they held thus: “My firm view is that Section 76 of the Electoral Act is clearly inapplicable to the issues under consideration. The form referred to are the form to be used in the conduct of the election as FORM CF001 had been taken care of in Section 31 of the Electoral Act and the said FORM CF001 is tied to the steps laid down in the said Section 31 of the Electoral Act.”
They are contending that “the law is firmly settled that a candidate is not required by the Constitution or the Electoral Act to attach his certificates to FORM CF001 before the candidate can be considered or adjudged to have the requisite educational qualifications to contest the election.”
Atiku and the PDP further allege that the Tribunal erred in law, when they held thus: “There was/is no pleadings in the Petition to the effect that 2nd Respondent’s failure to attach his certificates to Form CF001 amounts to lack of educational qualification to contest the election.
“In other words, the issue of failure to attach certificates which have been flogged throughout the length and breadth of the Petitioners Address (es) in Reply to 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents final written address is not the case of the Petitioner in the pleadings. No issue was joined on nonproduction of certificates or failure to attach them as an infraction of section 131, 137 and 138 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.”
They argued that the “Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they relied on ‘overall interest of justice’ to hold that the 2nd Respondent’s (Buhari) Exhibits R1 to R26, P85 and P86 were properly admitted in evidence.”
They also contended that, “The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they held as follows:
“The reasonable inference or plausible meaning attachable to the above provision of Electoral Act 2010 as amended is that a Candidate can list information concerning evidence of his qualifications or other relevant information(s) about himself. The demand or information required in FORM CF001 cannot be more or higher than the statutory requirements.
“All submissions about the failure to produce certificates or attach same to CF001 is hereby discountenanced. Even if it can be said that the submissions made are in tandem with the Petitioners Pleadings on issues 1 and 2 the fact remains that none of the facts pleaded were proved or established as required by law.”
It is also the claim of the appellants that the judgement of the Tribunal was not based on the issues canvassed by the petitioners, especially in relation to the respondent’s academic qualifications.
The extensive appeal went on to argue the following:
“Take, for instance, one of the respondent’s witnesses, rtd Maj.-Gen. Paul Tarfa, called by President Muhammadu Buhari’s lawyers said that they did not give their qualifications to the Military Board. Tarfa’s testimony is against the claim by Buhari that the Nigeria military is in possession of his certificates.
“Secondly, Buhari said that he was recruited into the military in 1961 and Tarfa said in 1962, so what is the correct date of his recruitment into the army. Somebody is not telling the truth.
“The issue in question is who entered the different grades for him from both the Cambridge and the West African School Certificate results.
“This is the first time that the court will say that the documents are admitted in the interest of justice. So, who entered the different grades for him and if he did it, why?
“Another ground of appeal is that the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, brought the Cambridge documents dated July 18 and testified on July 20.
“The point here is that it was not pleaded, when the respondent replied to the petition of Atiku and PDP. The position of the appellants is that in law, you don’t speak on documents not pleaded.”
The appellants are also claiming that the WAEC documents contradicted the Cambridge documents, describing it as a case of forgery and inconsistency in documents.
“On the INEC server, the judgement of the PEPT said the INEC server was hacked and we then asked, which of the servers was hacked?
“The tribunal judgment was based on the Electoral Act section 52 (1) (B), but this aspect of the law has since been deleted in 2015. It is no longer in existence. This was the case in Wike Vs Peterside.
”If the judgment said INEC server was recklessly hacked, then, there is a server and, therefore, a criminal offence. Yet, INEC did not claim so or that its documents were stolen.
”How come the judge reached this scandalous decision?”
The appellants are praying the apex court to hold that the Tribunal erred in its decision and consequently set the Tribunal’s judgment aside and go ahead to grant all the reliefs sought.
Atiku and his party, the PDP, had dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the Tribunal for declaring Buhari winner of the February 23 presidential election.
Mentioned as respondents are the electoral umpire, including President Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In the petition filed on March 18, the petitioners, amongst other things, alleged that the INEC in connivance with agencies of the ruling government manipulated the outcome of the poll in favour of Buhari.
They further alleged that Buhari at the time of contesting the poll was not qualified, having not possessed requisite academic qualification and that as such all votes credited to him in the election be regarded as wasted votes.
Atiku and the PDP in the petition had urged the Tribunal to nullify the election of President Buhari on the grounds of alleged Irregularities, rigging, substantial noncompliance with the electoral provisions, amongst other complaints.
The petitioners sought the nullification of Buhari’s election on a further charge that the President had lied on oath in his form CF001 submitted to the INEC for his clearance for the election.
The President had claimed that he possessed three certificates namely, Primary School Certificate, West African School Certificate (WASC) and Officers Cadet Certificate but , nlike other candidates, did not attach copies of any of the certificates to support his claim, the petitioners complained.
Based on these arguments, they prayed the Tribunal declare them winner of the February 23 presidential election.
The Tribunal, however, in its judgment on September 11 dismissed the petition for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The Tribunal had resolved all issues raised by the petitioners in favour of Buhari, adding that the President did not lie but, indeed, possessed the mandatory qualifications and even much more to contest for the presidential election.
While arguing that the failure of Buhari in not attaching the said certificates in his form CF 001 did not amount to not having the certificates, Justice Garba held that there is no law that requires the attachment of certificates to the form CF001 submitted to the INEC to aid his clearance for the February 23 presidential poll.
“It is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to his Form CF001 before a candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election,” the Tribunal ruled.
In its conclusion on the issue, the Tribunal ruled that both oral and documentary evidence before it proved that the President had possessed more than the minimum secondary school certificate required to contest the election.
Accordingly, the Tribnal ruled that: “Second respondent has more than secondary school certificate having attended various courses. He is not only qualified, he is eminently qualified.”
Dissatisfied, the petitioners had approached the Supreme Court to reverse the judgment of the Tribunal, seeking that the Court set aside the judgment and grant the prayers sought by them.