The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday rejected the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), which dismissed the suit filed by the party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The verdict brought to an end the six-month legal battle embarked upon by the PDP and Atiku, seeking to upturn the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential election.
Vowing to seek redress at the Supreme Court, the PDP described the judgment as “provocative, barefaced subversion of justice, and a direct assault on the integrity of our nation’s justice system.”
The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was particularly “shocked that the tribunal failed to point to justice despite the flawless evidence laid before it, showing that President Buhari was not only unqualified to contest the election but also did not score the majority of valid votes at the polls.”
The PDP said it was “bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Muhammadu Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.”
The party was also “rudely shocked that the court took over the roles of the respondents’ lawyers who clearly abandoned their pleadings by refusing to call evidence in defence of the petition. The court raked up all manner of excuses to make up for the yawning gaps occasioned by the total absence of any evidence from the respondents.”
It said: “Nigerians and the international community watched in utter disbelief when the tribunal ruled that one need not provide a copy or certified true copy of educational certificate such individual claimed to possess, contrary to established proof of claims of certification. The court even went ahead to provide rationalisations in favour of President Buhari, even when all hard facts before it shows that he did not possess the claimed educational certificate and that the army was not in possession of his WAEC certificate, as claimed in the affidavit he deposed to in his presidential nomination form.”
The PDP further described as shocking that the court approved “the flawed declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the election despite evidence to show the perpetration of illegalities, manipulations, alterations and subtraction of valid votes freely given to Atiku Abubakar by Nigerians.”
It noted: “Indeed, the pervading melancholic atmosphere across our nation since the verdict is a direct indication that the judgment has not fulfilled the desires and expectations of Nigerians.”
The party, however, encouraged Nigerians to remain calm and not lose hope or surrender to despondency or self-help “as our lawyers are upbeat in obtaining justice at the Supreme Court.”
It added: “This is more so as the tribunal itself admitted that there are several errors in the judgment.”
Also, speaking shortly after the judgment, a member of Atiku’s legal team, Chief Mike Ozekhome vowed that his clients would appeal the judgment.
He said: “That we are appealing to the Supreme Court is as sure and certain as death. The only most certain thing in our lives is death, and our appealing this decision is as certain as death.
“We shall challenge many things in the judgment. We will challenge the misapplication of the Electoral Act. We will look at misevaluation and even non-evaluation of critical evidence, which would have swung the case in favour of the petitioners. So, it is not yet Ohuru for the respondents. We would rather say that this is the beginning of the struggle to liberate Nigerians.”
The tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the PDP and Atiku for failing to substantiate their petitions beyond reasonable doubt.
The five-man panel led by Justice Muhammed Garba, which took the grounds of the petition one after the other, dismissed the petitions in their entirety in the unanimous judgment that lasted about eight hours.
It described the issues contained in the petitions as mere allegations and lacking in probative value.
On the allegation that Buhari lied on oath when he filled in his Form C 001 that he possesses the West African School Certificate, Gaba resolved the issue against the petitioners on the ground that a school certificate is not a requirement for contesting the position of president.
The tribunal further stated that Buhari’s failure to tender his certificates while submitting compulsory documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not translate to not possessing the certificate or not being educated up to secondary school level.
“There is no doubt that the second respondent is not only qualified to contest the election, he is eminently qualified to contest,” said Garba.
He held that even the exhibits tendered by Atiku and the PDP proved further Buhari’s qualification.
The tribunal also struck out the petition that the February 23 presidential election results were electronically transmitted. The panel held that evidence put forward by the petitioners were unreliable and inadmissible because such were hearsay.
It stated that the petitioners’ position that the results announced by the INEC differed from the original results was based on information from a third party, therefore lacking in probate value.
“The method of collation and transmission of results according to the Electoral Act is manual at every level. There is no provision in the exhibit that results were transmitted electronically in the 2019 election.
“The petitioners have failed to establish the claim of electronic transmission of results at all levels of the election. Hence, the petitioners failed to prove this aspect of this case.”