INEC opens defence on Atiku’s petition today

As the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal resumes sitting on Monday (today), the Independent National Electoral Commission is scheduled to open its defence in response to the petition filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his Peoples Democratic Party challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019 presidential poll.

The Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal of five judges had after the petitioners rested their case with 62 witnesses on July 19 adjourned further proceedings till Monday for INEC to open its defence.

 The petitioners’ legal team led by Dr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) tendered as exhibits over 50,000 documents, mostly result sheets from 11 states where they mainly disagreed with the outcome of the poll.

INEC is the 1st respondent to the petition, while President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, whose victory at the poll are being challenged by the petitioners, are the 2nd and the 3rd respondents, respectively.

INEC’s Director, Information and Communications Technology, Mr Chidi Nwafor, is one of the commission’s proposed witnesses.

 INEC, whose legal team is led by Yunus Usman (SAN), has six days to present its case. Buhari and the APC will in turn take six days each to present their defence.

Nwafor, in his statement on oath attached to INEC’s reply to the petition, denied the “server results” which the petitioners were laying claim to as the authentic results of the last presidential poll.

INEC had declared that Buhari and the APC won the February 23 election with 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, whom it said polled 11,262,978 votes.

 Atiku and his party had urged the tribunal to hold that “from the data” in INEC’s server “the true, actual and correct results” from “state to state computation” showed that they polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari whom they said scored 16,741,430 votes.

 By calculation, Atiku and the PDP claimed to have defeated Buhari by 1,615,302 votes.

But Nwafor stated in his witness statement on oath that all the results of the election were collated manually and were never transmitted electronically.

 He stated, “That the petitioners did not win the majority of the lawful votes cast and did not satisfy the mandatory constitutional requirement to be declared winner having polled 11,262,978 and one quarter of all lawful votes cast in 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as against the 2nd respondent who scored 15,191,847 votes cast and one quarter of the lawful votes cast in 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has been asked to disqualify President Muhammadu Buhari as the All Progressives Congress’ candidate in the last presidential election.

Three appellants, Kalu Agu, Labaran Ismail, Hassy El-Kunis are, by their appeal before the apex court, challenging the July 12, 2019 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which dismissed their case.

 They had through their suit first filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja alleged that Buhari was not qualified to contest the last presidential poll on the grounds that he submitted false information regarding his academic qualification and certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission after emerging as the APC’s candidate for the poll.

But Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in his judgment delivered on May 2, 2019 struck out the suit for being statute-barred.

 The three appellants have appealed to the Supreme Court.

 In their notice of appeal dated and filed July 24, 2019, the appellants through their counsel, Ukpai Ukairo, presented 12 grounds for the setting aside of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
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