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[LIVE UPDATES] Buhari Vs Atiku: Tribunal Ruling On 2019 Presidential Election

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[LIVE UPDATES] Buhari Vs Atiku: Tribunal Ruling On 2019 Presidential Election

Security was beefed up on Wednesday within the vicinity of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal delivers judgment in the petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar challenging president Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the Feb. 23 general election.

9.35 am: Adams Oshiomhole represents APC. Livy Ozoukwu (SAN) leads petitioners’ legal team

9.36 am: Yunus Ustaz Usman (SAN) leads INEC’s legal team

9: 44 am: APC’s lawyer, Fagbemi, tenders Olanipekun’s apology for his absence. He said Olanipekun was in Europe when the hearing notice for the proceedings was served on Tuesday.

9.49 am: Justice Mohammed Garba who heads the five-man panel announces that reserved rulings on applications taken during the pre-hearing session will be delivered first before the judgment.

9.53 am: The first application to be ruled upon by tribunal is the one filed by INEC (the 1st respondent) asking the tribunal to strike out the petition on the grounds that the petitioners failed to join the vice-presidential candidate of the APC, Yemi Osinbajo, as a party to the petition.
INEC says in the motion that Osinbajo is an indispensable party to the petition. It says failure to join Osinbajo in the petition has robbed the tribunal of jurisdiction to hear the petitioners’ case.

9.57 am: Justice Garba who is delivering the lead ruling of the five-man tribunal is now considering the arguments for and against the INEC’s motion.

10:07 am: The tribunal unanimously dismisses INEC’s motion which Justice Garba describes as not being well-grounded in law.

The tribunal rules that a vice presidential candidate is not a necessary party in an election petition but an appendage of the presidential candidate who nominated him.

10:13 am: The second ruling is on another motion filed by INEC on April 25. The application by INEC seeks among others, the striking out of: 1. The petitioners’ list of documents relied on by the petition, 2. Petitioners’ list of witnesses, 3. Some paragraphs of the petition.

10.23 am: The grounds of the INEC’s motion is that the petitioners’ lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), who signed the petitioners’ list of witnesses and other documents was not on the roll of lawyers kept by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court and as such cannot practise law in Nigeria.

The tribunal says if the allegation is found to be true all the documents of the petitioners will be struck out.

Uzoukwu debunks INEC’s allegation, says he was called to the Nigerian bar in 1982.

10.27 am: Uzoukwu says he was called into inner bar (conferred with SAN rank) along with INEC’s lead counsel, Yunus Usman (SAN) in 1982. Uzoukwu says he was Attorney-General of Imo State from 1994 to 1996.

10.31 am: Justice Garba noted that INEC appears to have made a detour by not further responding to Uzoukwu’s claims. He rules that that documents signed by Uzoukwu as a lawyer whose name appears on the rolls of the Supreme Court were validly and competently filed.

10.34 am: The tribunal is now considering the aspect of INEC’s motion which says some of the grounds of the petition constitute a pre-election matter which ought to have been filed in court within 14 days after the cause of action arose.

The said pre-election issues referred to by INEC are the allegations by the petitioners that Buhari was not qualified to contest the February 23 poll and that Buhari gave false information in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC.

10.39 am: Again, the tribunal holds that the ground D of the petition challenged by INEC was valid and competent. It says that by virtue of section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, the ground D having to do with non-qualification of Buhari to contest the election is both a pre-election and post-election issue.

10:43 amAtiku Vs Buhari: Facts and figures (3)

*May 22, 2019: President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa withdrew as head and member of the five-man tribunal following the petitioners’ allegation of bias against her

*June 10, 2019: Justice Mohammed Garba takes charge as new head of the panel and tribunal’s pre-hearing session commenced

*July 3, 2019: Pre-hearing session ended

10.44 am: The tribunal now considering the INEC’s claim that the petitioners’ Ground E is a pre-election issue and thus incompetent. In the petitioners’ ground E, it was alleged that Buhari gave false information of fundamental nature in the affidavit submitted to INEC to aid his qualification to contest the election.

10.51 am: Ruling on the issue, Justice Garba says “I find no merit” in the prayer of the applicant.

10.53 am: The fifth of the prayers of INEC in the application is now being considered.

The tribunal dismisses the fifth prayer by INEC, saying contrary to the commission’s contention, the petitioners’ paragraphs 148 to 200 and 260 to 261 are not vague, imprecise, or nebulous, and so cannot be struck down as requested by the commission.

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11.04 am: Prayer 7 and 8 in INEC’s motion succeed. The tribunal holds some named paragraphs in the petition are struck out for containing serious criminal allegations of undue interference with electoral process against individuals that are not joined as parties to the petition.

The third application is also by INEC asking the tribunal to strike out the petitioners reply to its reply to the petition

11: 11 am: Justice Garba is to deliver the lead ruling on the application. Justice Garba upholds part of INEC’s prayers in the third application by striking out some paragraphs of the petitioners’ reply to the commission reply to the petition for violating paragraph 16 of the First Schedule to Electoral Act.

11.22 am: Justice Garba also upholds another part of INEC’s motion striking out paragraphs 1 to 26 of part 2 of the petitioners’ reply to the commission’s reply to the petition.

11.23 am: Other members of the panel agreed. The motion to be ruled upon is by Buhari asking the tribunal to strike out the petitioners’ reply to his reply to the petition.

11.46 am: Summary of rulings (1)

*Three motions filed by INEC against the petition.

*One dismissed.

*Two partially succeeded leading to the striking out of some paragraphs in the petitioners’ petition and their reply to INEC’s reply to the petition.

* Buhari filed two motions.

*Two motions succeded partially leading to the striking out of some paragraphs in the petitioners ‘ reply to Buhari’s reply to the petition.

*The last two motions were filed by APC.

11.50 am: Buhari’s first motion also succeded partially leading to the striking out of some paragraphs in the petitioners ‘ reply to Buhari’s reply to the petition.

12.09 pm: Buhari’s second motion also succeeded partially. Some other paragraphs of the petitioners’ reply to Buhari’s reply to the petition are struck out.

12.34 pm: The tribunals says it will step down the ruling on the second motion by APC to first deliver ruling on the motion by the petitioner challenging the APC’s reply to their petition on the grounds that the reply is incompetent.

12.51 pm: Petitioners motion succeeded in part leading to the striking out of some of the paragraphs of APC’s reply to the petition.

12.57 pm: APC’s second motion also succeeded partially.

12.58 pm: Tribunal takes “a short break.” Main judgment to be delivered upon return.

12.59 pm: Final summary of rulings

A total of eight rulings were delivered:

*Three motions filed by INEC against the petition

-One dismissed

– Two partially succeeded leading to the striking out of some paragraphs in the petitioners’ petition and their reply to INEC’s reply to the petition

* Buhari filed two motions

– Two motions succeded partially leading to the striking out of some paragraphs in the petitioners ‘ reply to Buhari’s reply to the petition

*Petitioners filed one motion against APC’s reply to their petition

– Motion succeded in part leading to the striking out of some of the paragraphs of APC’s reply to the petition

*APC filed two motions

– One succeeded partially in terms of prayers 6 and

– APC’s second motion also succeeded partially

1.40 pm: Tribunal resumes sitting.

1.41 pm: Justice Mohammed Garba delivering the lead judgment.

1.49 pm: INEC raised four issues for determination, Buhari three, APC raised six issues while the petitioners (Atiku, PDP) raised five issues.

1.50 pm: The tribunal adopts the issues as raised by the petitioners. The tribunal is to deal with the issues in the order as raised by the petitioners’ lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN).

1.56 pm: The tribunal to resolve Issues 1 and 2 now. Issue 1 dwells on whether Buhari possessed the requisite educational qualification to contest the February 23 presidential election.

The second issue is whether Buhari gave false information (about his educational certificate) in an affidavit submitted to INEC which was fundamental in nature to aid his qualification to contest the election.

Both issues are to  be resolved together by the tribunal.

2.01 pm: Ex-Borno State Governor and former National Chairman of PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff, walks into the courtroom. He is now a member of the APC.

2.08 pm: Buhari says he completed primary education in 1952, secondary education in 1961. PDP says no proof was presented in court.

2. 16 pm: Tribunal says it is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to his Form CF001 before a candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election.

Citing a previous Supreme Court judgment, the tribunal says, “Submission of educational certificate is not a requirement for qualification to contest election for governor under section 177 Constitution.”

2.21 pm: Tribunal notes that Buhari’s witnesses confirmed that Buhari had secondary school education.

“In effect, the 2nd defendant went through secondary education and then proceeded to military school. The military school is higher than secondary education,” says the tribunal.

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2.37 pm: Buhari is not only qualified but eminently qualified to contest the presidential election, says Tribunal.

Buhari would have been qualified by mere showing that he had primary school education. The tribunal says the courses attended by Buhari are higher than secondary school education. Exhibits 21 and 24 tendered by the petitioners showed that Buhari had WASC.

The petitioners have failed to discharge the burden of proof of the allegation of non-qualification or submission of false information which is fundamental in the aid of the 2nd respondent’s qualification, the tribunal declares.

2.53 pm: Justice Mohammed Garba of the presidential tribunal says, “The onus rests squarely on the petitioners to prove their assertion that the 2nd respondent does not possess the educational qualification to contest the election or that he submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification. This I have mentioned that the petitioners failed to prove. The petitioners cannot, therefore, rely on any failure in the case.”

2.58 pm: Justice Garba says, “I have no doubt in my mind that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent does not possess the qualification to contest the election into the office of the President as stipulated in section 131, 137, 138 of the Constitution. I am also of the firm view that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification to contest the election into the Office of the President as prescribed in section 35(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.”

“I come to the conclusion and I resolve issues 1 and 2 against the petitioners,” he states.

3.00 pm: The tribunal considers Issue 3, which is whether or not Buhari was elected by a majority of lawful votes cast on February 23, 2019 election.

3.21 pm: This issue is also about whether election results were electronically transmitted. The tribunal holds that the manual provided by INEC did not provide for electronic transmission of results.

3.36 pmIt is clear that the results were collated manually -Justice Garba

“The evidence of the five witnesses who claimed that the results were transmitted electronically has no bearing on the requirement of proof expected of the petitioners. It is like a drop in the ocean.

“Electronic voting or transmission of results have no statutory backing. The mode of voting and collation of results have not changed from being manual since 2015,” says tribunal.

Justice Garba recalls the 2015 judgments of the Supreme Court which held that card readers were only recognised for use to authenticate the owner of the voter card.

3.38 pm: “Card reader machine has not replaced the voter register. A petitioner must rely on the card reader to prove non-accreditation or overvoting,” says tribunal.

The tribunal rules that the evidence and report of PW59, witness 59 of the petitioners, cannot be relied on that there was indeed INEC server or servers, as the case may be, into which the results of the presidential election were transmitted.

4: 21 pm: Issue 3 resolved against petitioners.

4.23 pm: The tribunal says the petitioners failed to discharge the burden of proof that Buhari was not elected by a majority of lawful votes.

4.25 pm Issues 4 and 5 are now being resolved together.  The issues are whether or not the election was marred by corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act.

4.28 pm: Under these issues, the petitioners alleged the election was marred by irregularities, misuse of scarce resources, manipulation of result sheets, overvoting, wrongful recording of results, intimidation of voters among others in 11 “focal states”.

The petitioners’ 11 focal states are, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger,  Yobe and Zamfara States.

The tribunal says the allegations levelled under issues 4 and 5 are criminal in nature and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

4.57 pm: Tribunal says none of the documents tendered by the petitioners was utilised to prove the allegations, such as overvoting.

“In the final result, and I have come to the conclusion which is inevitable and unavoidable, that the petitioners have not proved any of the grounds of the petition in paragraph 15 of the petition.

“This petition is accordingly and hereby dismissed in its entirety,” says Justice Garba.

Parties are to bear their costs.

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