Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) has granted the request made by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to have their petitions over the result of the February 23 presidential election served on President Muhammadu Buhari by substituted means.
The Justice Abdul Aboki led three-man panel, which granted the request contained in an ex-parte motion, specifically ordered that copies of all the legal processes should be served on Buhari through any senior officer at the national headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja.
Meanwhile, it is more trouble for Buhari as three more presidential candidates have separately filed petitions at the PEPT sitting in Abuja, asking it to void the outcome of the February 23 presidential election.
They include the presidential candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Chief Ambrose Owuru, whose petition marked as CA/ PEPC/001/2019 also cited the APC and the INEC as respondents. Owuru secured a total of 1,663 in the presidential election. In another petition that was registered as CA/PEPC/004/2019, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Pastor Aminchi Habu, equally challenged the outcome of the presidential poll. In its own petition marked CA/PEPC/003/2019, the Coalition For Change (C4C) and its presidential candidate, Geff Chizee Ojinka, also urged the tribunal to nullify Buhari’s election.
The order of the tribunal was sequel to an ex-parte application that was filed by the PDP and Atiku, which was moved by their lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). In the petition marked CA/PEPC/002/2019, the applicants, who listed the INEC, Buhari and the APC as respondents, prayed the tribunal to invalidate the declaration of Buhari as winner of the presidential contest.
The tribunal had earlier ordered the electoral body to grant the petitioners, the second and third respondents (Buhari and the APC), access to all the electoral materials that were deployed for the February 23 presidential poll, apart from the smart card reader machines.
While Atiku and PDP maintained that they would need copies of the materials to sustain their allegation that the election was rigged, Buhari and the APC said they would also need the materials to prove that they legitimately won the presidential election.
The INEC had on February 27, declared that Buhari won the presidential contest with 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rivalry, Atiku, who it said polled a total of 11,262,978 votes.
However, in their joint petition, Atiku and his party insisted that the data they secured from the INEC’s server revealed that they defeated Buhari with over 1.6million votes.
The petitioners alleged that INEC had at various stages of the presidential election, unlawfully allocated votes to Buhari, saying they would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that the result of the election as announced by the electoral body did not represent the lawful valid votes cast.
Atiku alleged that in some states, INEC deducted lawful votes that accrued to him, in its bid to ensure that Buhari was returned to office. The petitioners said they would call evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and fingerprint experts at the hearing of the petition to establish that the scores credited to Buhari were not the product of actual votes validly cast at the polling units.
“The petitioners plead and shall rely on electronic video recordings, newspaper reports, photographs and photographic images of several infractions of the electoral process by the respondents,” they added.
More so, in one of the five grounds of the petition, Atiku and the PDP maintained that Buhari was not qualified to run for the office of the president, contending that he did not possess the constitutional minimum qualification of a school certificate.
The petitioners serialised results that were recorded from each state of the federation in order to prove that the alleged fraudulent allocation of votes to Buhari and the APC took place at the polling units, the ward collating centres, local government collating centres and the state collating centres.
They argued that proper collation and summation of the presidential election results would show that contrary to what INEC declared, Atiku, garnered a total of 18,356,732 votes, ahead of Buhari who they said got a total of 16,741,430 votes.
He said: “The petitioners shall rely on the evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and other experts, detailing the data analysis on the votes at all levels of collation, from the polling units to the final return.”
“The petitioners state that smart card readers deployed by the first respondent, in addition to accreditation, equally transmitted electronically the results of voting from polling units directly to the server of the first respondent.”
Meanwhile, in their various petitions, the three presidential candidates urged the tribunal to invoke its powers and quash the declaration of Buhari as the bona-fide winner of the 2019 presidential election.
The petitioners separately alleged that the election was characterised by manifest irregularities, adding that the Electoral Act was not substantially complied with by the INEC.