Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has dismissed the petition filed by the Hope Democratic Party, (HDP) and its candidate, Chief Ambrose Owuru, seeking to nullify the February 23 presidential election and to sack President Muhammadu Buhari from office.
The petitioners were of the view that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to follow the requirements set out in the Electoral Act, when it unduly postponed the presidential election that was originally fixed for February 16.
In the petition marked CA/PEPC/001/2019, the party claimed that its candidate, Owuru, secured over 50million votes in a referendum that was conducted by both electorate and observer networks that were dissatisfied with the unilateral postponement of the presidential election by INEC.
The HDP, therefore, urged the tribunal to uphold the outcome of the referendum “the people” conducted on February 16, and invalidate the “substituted election” and “undue return” of President Buhari.
Delivering judgment, Justice Mohammed Garba, chairman of the five-man panel, held that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Garba said the action was an abuse of court processes, adding that the premise on which the petition was hinged was unknown to the country’s Constitution.
The decision was unanimous as there was no dissenting judgment.
The HDP and its presidential candidate, Owuru, had prayed the tribunal to set aside the outcome of the election on grounds that INEC allegedly failed to follow the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010.
The petitioners had averred that the electoral body’s abrupt postponement of the poll earlier scheduled for February 16 was deceptive and done to favour a particular candidate.
They contended that Owuru emerged winner of the election through a referendum conducted on February 16 by scoring 50 million votes across the country.
They had submitted that Nigerian citizens participated in the February 16 referendum as required by law and, therefore, urged the tribunal to nullify the declaration of Buhari by INEC as President and, in his place, restore Owuru as the authentic winner.
Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel for the President, had urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that it was frivolous, baseless and lacking in merit.
Olanipekun had told the tribunal that the petitioners did not in any way adduce evidence on how the referendum was conducted and who conducted it, in line with the provisions of the law.
He further explained that referendum was not known to the country’s law as a procedure to elect citizens into positions of governance.
Olanipekun further said he had studied carefully the final address of the HDP and its presidential candidate and there was nowhere they made any case against President Buhari.
On his part, Mr. Yunus Usman, SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost to serve as a deterrent to those who may wish to file frivolous and baseless petitions in the 2023 elections and beyond.
Usman argued that the petition lacked merit because the electoral body conducted an election, not a referendum, and the claims of the two petitioners were strange to the electoral umpire.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to uphold the declaration of Buhari as the winner of the presidential election.
Also, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, counsel for the All Progressives Congress aligned with the other respondents to demand the dismissal of the petition for lacking in merit.