President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) have urged the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal to dismiss the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate Atiku Abubakar challenging the February 23 general election on technicalities and evidential grounds.
The prayers formed the major plank of other requests contained in the final addresses to be adopted by Buhari and the APC on August 23. This was made available to the media on Sunday in Abuja.
The respondents had described the address that urged the tribunal to sack Buhari and affirm Atiku president, as a “wild goose chase prayer’’.
They alleged that PDP erroneously allowed a candidate who was not a Nigerian by birth to contest the highest position in the country. In addition, they submitted that this was in violation of the provisions of the Constitution. Therefore, the president and his party prayed the tribunal to invoke Section 131 (a) of the constitution to dismiss the petition.
Indeed, section 131 (a) of the constitution strictly holds that a person must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth to qualify to contest the office of the president.
The respondents affirmed that Atiku was born on Nov.25, 1946 in Jada. They held that Jada is a former Adamawa Province of Northern Cameroon. This was before a plebiscite was conducted in 1961 that now made the enclave part of Nigeria.
Consequently, they alleged that Atiku was not qualified to enter the contest. Specifically, Mr. Buhari and the APC declared that the constitution forbade him from canvassing for votes to become a president.
“We pray the tribunal will see this constitutional reason and … uphold the election of the second respondent (Buhari) forthwith.”
On evidence admitted from the petitions, the two respondents said they were empty. They held that none had substantially proven the series of allegations made against the conduct of the election.
They explained that none of the 75 witnesses and 31, 287 exhibits had proved any of the petitioners’ allegations.The exhibits included 48 video clips. Also, they claimed the petitioners had tried to mislead the tribunal and the public. This was based on their affirmation that results from the election were transmitted electronically to a central server.
The server was said to be managed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The respondents noted that it was public knowledge that the Feb.23 general election was conducted with the Electoral Act of 2010 as amended.
“Moreover, the laws in Nigeria do not recognize but actually prohibit transmission of results electronically. Sections 52 and 78 of the Electoral Act 2010 have categorically addressed the issue.
“The only means of transmitting election results under the law are through Forms EC8 series. Form EC8A conveys results from Polling Units. It is only through these approved forms that election results can be challenged or proven and not through server, imaginary or real.”
As a result, the parties submitted that the petitioners’ allegation on the use of server by INEC to transmit results was “criminal and misguided’’.
“Atiku Abubakar and the PDP have failed in their attempt to stridently prove their petition. The petitioners failed woefully to establish by credible evidence the existence of the imaginary server belonging to INEC.”
They argued that most of the witnesses presented by the petitioners attested to the fact that they signed all the Forms that contained the results of the election without coercion.
On Buhari’s educational qualification, they said that the petitioners failed to adduce credible and reliable evidence to establish that he (Buhari) indeed forged his certificate.
“While it is appropriate to debunk such baseless, mendacious and spurious assertion, it suffices to bring to fore the unequivocal provision of the constitution. The constitution is clear on this as it states the requirement for a candidate to contest the presidential election and occupy the office of the president.
“Section 131(d) provided that a person shall be qualified for election into the office of the president. If he or she has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
“More so, the consequence of submitting a forged document to INEC is grave. It therefore requires precise evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt, which the petitioners have not been able to establish,’’ the respondents said.
Drawing reference from the constitution, the respondents further defined a secondary school certificate or its equivalent. They declared this to mean secondary school certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s certificate.
They listed others to include: City and Guide certificate or Education up to secondary school certificate level. Also, a Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent. Further listed was service in the public or private sector in the Federation in any capacity acceptable to INEC for a minimum of 10 years.
“It is apparent that from the pleadings and evidence adduced led by the petitioners. There is no scintilla or iota of evidence to prove that the president was at the time of the election not qualified. It is trite that how who asserts must prove. We have clearly seen that the petitioners had failed woefully in this matter.
“In the circumstance, we urge the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds of both technicalities and evidential failure and to affirm the election of the president,’’ they submitted.
Both parties are expected to adopt their final addresses on August 21 preparatory to judgment by Justice Mohammed Garba-led-five-man panel. Equally important, Wednesday August 21 has also been set aside for inauguration of new Ministers by Mr. Buhari.
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