Sixteen days after it dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against the tribunal verdict on President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the February 23 presidential election, the Supreme Court yesterday adduced reasons for doing so.
The apex court said that that both the PDP and Atiku were unable to prove the allegations they levelled against the president.
Atiku, a former vice president, had asked the court to declare him the winner of the election, a prayer the Supreme Court refused to grant. The appellants had claimed that the tribunal erred in not addressing all the issues raised in petition.
But Justice Inyang Okoro, who gave reasons why the apex court on October 30 turned down Atiku’s request, said that the issues brought before the tribunal bordered on the qualification, electoral malpractice, and transmission of election results electronically, among others.
On behalf of the seven-man panel of justices, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, Okoro said that “the appeal lacked any scintilla of merit and therefore needed to be dismissed.’’
On the president’s qualification, Okoro said that Buhari was eminently qualified to contest the election as sufficient evidence was adduced to confirm both his educational and candidature status that were accepted by the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC).
Okoro, therefore, upheld the decision of the tribunal on the issues around the president’s qualification and possession of relevant certificates was legendary.
He said that Buhari was not liable of any irregularities and corrupt practices before, during and after the election as claimed by the appellants.
The Supreme Court further said that the president was not under any obligation to attach his credentials to his INEC nomination form as contested by the appellants, adding that the demand was not provided for in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Commenting on the use of server by INEC in transmitting the results of the election to a central point, Okoro said that both the PDP and Atiku failed woefully to provide evidence to substantiate the allegation.
He said: “They were wrong to have relied on the so called results obtained from a website not maintained by the electoral umpire,” adding that the claim by Atiku that he won the election based on information from such a clandestine source was questionable.
“I agree entirely with the court below that the appellants failed to prove that INEC has the server from which they got their figures.
“Therefore, all the results, calculations and analysis based on the results from such a source that did not belong to INEC are of no significance,’’ the judge said.
On the allegations of over voting, violence and other malpractices, the apex court held that the failure of the appellants to call credible witnesses was fatal to their case, adding that five witnesses invited to prove such claims were unimaginable.
According to the judge, most of the issues raised by the appellants were based on to prove hearsay evidence, adding that the apex court could not grant prayers that were not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
“We are of the conviction that the lower court did a good job based on the evidence brought before it by the appellants. We also unanimously dismissed the appeal as all five issues remained unproven,’’ he said.
It’s Affirmation Of Popular Will – Presidency
Meanwhile, the presidency has welcomed the explanation of the Supreme Court for dismissing the PDP petition.
In a statement he issued yesterday, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said that the onus of proof must necessarily fall on those that challenge the outcome of the election.
Shehu said that the allegations must be substantiated if they were to hold, adding that “this requires producing credible witnesses that verify key claims.” He stressed that the Supreme Court has stated, the case failed the critical test.
On Buhari’s qualification, Shehu said that the president has a long history of service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that the questioning of this fact seems to fly in the face of all evidence.
He said: “The legislative agenda of the 9th Assembly is ambitious in both size and scope. It is critical the opposition is there to scrutinise bills and policies, rather than preoccupy themselves with unsustainable court cases.
“We appreciate the PDP and its candidate for taking these claims to the court rather than expressing them in other ways, but now Nigeria needs a robust and rigorous opposition. The nation needs to move on.
“While it is correct to give credit to the courts for affirming this electoral victory-and we commend the courage of the bench to arrive at the right conclusion given manifest and subtle pressures to do otherwise – the reality is that the courts were convinced by arguments from the lawyers representing the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, that the result reflected the true wishes of a majority of our citizens.
“President Buhari won four million more votes than his closest rival, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in the February poll. No serious electoral observers have challenged this result. And now the Supreme Court has explained why the PDP appeal is unsubstantiated. We hope this has finally put the matter behind us.” Shehu said.