Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have assembled a team 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and 400 witnesses, just as they filed petitions challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the February 23 presidential election, at the Tribunal, yesterday.
While the National Legal Adviser for the PDP, Emmanuel Enoidem, spoke on behalf of the party after completing the filing process, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) spoke on behalf of Atiku’s legal team.
Enoidem expressed confidence that the party has all the necessary evidence that would overturn the result of the election.
“We came to present a joint petition of our party, the PDP and the candidate of our party.
“The last day for the petition was actually tomorrow but, we decided to file today (yesterday).
“We told the tribunal that our candidate, who won the election massively, across the country, be declared the winner of that election.
“In the alternative, we also asked the election be set aside on the grounds of irregularities which were very apparent accross the country.
“We have a pool of 20 SANS who are tested in election petition matters and other senior lawyers who are also working with them. So, we are very ready for the petition. The petition is well packaged,the depositions are well put together and more than 400 witnesses are going to testify in this pettion.
“Nigerians are at home with what happened on February 23 in this country, the sham they called election.
Of course, we are going to re-present the facts to Nigerian as the facts are already in the domain on Nigerians. We are not going to manufacture facts.”
On his part, Ozekhome described Atiku’s petition as solid, strong and unassailable.
He expressed optimism that the true owner and keeper of the people’s mandate would soon be declared by the tribunal.
Ozekhome, however, lamented the uncooperative attitude of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the order granted his client and the PDP; to inspect election materials.
Others on the legal team who were at the tribunal, at about 7:41pm, were Emeka Etiaba (SAN) and Dr. Maxwell Gidado.
The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal had, on March 6, ordered INEC to grant access to the PDP and Atiku to inspect the electoral materials used for the Fpresidential poll.
However, the three-man panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki unanimously refused to grant other reliefs by the applicants; seeking orders permitting them to, among others, photocopy and scan the electoral documents.
Specifically, the tribunal rejected their requests to be allowed to conduct a forensic examination and forensic analysis of the materials on the grounds the it is outside the scope of section 151 of the Electoral Act.
Besides, the tribunal further refused to grant the applicants request to have access to card reader data and information contained in the cloud and electronic storage used for the poll.
Other members of the panel, Justices Peter Ige and Emmanuel Agim, agreed with the lead ruling.
The ruling came after arguments were canvassed by Chief Chris Uche (SAN), who moved the ex parte motion on behalf of the applicants even though the legal team was led by Mr. Livy Ozoukwu (SAN).
The motion marked CA/A/P/EPT/1/2019, sought for leave of the tribunal to allow them to inspect the Voters’ Register, the Smart Card Reader machines, ballot papers and other vital documents that were used in the conduct of the presidential election.
They equally prayed the tribunal to compel the electoral body to allow their agents to scan and make photocopies of vital documents used in the conduct of the election, for the purpose of establishing alleged irregularities.
Chief Uche said his clients decided to approach the tribunal with the motion, in view of the fact that the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, stipulated that filing of the petition must not exceed 21 days after the election result was announced.
He said it would be practically impossible for INEC to certify over 80 million ballot papers that were used in over 172, 000 polling units in the country where the presidential election took place.
According to Uche, with the leave of the tribunal, forensic experts would be brought to testify and give evidence; during eventual hearing of the petition.