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In four hours, Apex Court hears, dismisses Atiku, PDP’s appeal

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Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad


Within four hours, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Supreme Court yesterday quashed Atiku Abubakar’s ambition to rule Nigeria for four years.The apex court heard and dismissed the appeal filed by the presidential aspirant and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), against the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT).With the ruling, the Supreme Court finally laid to rest the legal tussle that began shortly after the February 23 election.

The PEPT panel, set up in March following the outcome of the election, had on September 11 dismissed petitions filed by PDP and Atiku for lacking merit. Not satisfied, PDP and Atiku in October filed a 62-ground appeal challenging the judgment.The hearing spotted a formidable array of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) on the sides of the petitioners and defendants. The panel, led by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, also had Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice John Iyang Okoro, Justice Musa Datijo Muhammad Justice Ejembi Eko and Justice Uwani Abaji.

Shortly after counsel to the parties announced their appearances, counsel to the appellants, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), told the court of six interlocutory appeals and one main appeal.He grouped the interlocutory appeals into two classes, noting that while one dealt with the striking out of some paragraphs in their petition, the other challenged the striking out of some paragraphs in their reply.

But the panel advised that rather than take six interlocutory appeals before the main appeal, the appellants should collapse all into the main appeal, since the main appeal equally contained those facts highlighted in the interlocutory appeals.When it appeared impossible to convince the counsel to the appellants, the court stood down for 15 minutes to enable Uzoukwu decide what to do.

When they reconvened, Uzoukwu listed all the seven appeals but agreed with the court to take appeal No. SC/1211/2019. He told the court: “We are saying that the judgment of the lower court, which has been appealed in suit No.SC1211/2019 covered everything in the interlocutory appeal,” and urged it to adopt all his briefs.

In a short ruling, the court decided that judgment in the main appeal should affect the decision of all other appeals.Beginning with the issue of Buhari’s qualification to contest the election, the counsel told the court it was on record that the second respondent (Buhari) failed to give explanation to the difference between Mohamed and Muhammadu, which were both used at different times by Mr. President. According to him, it was not a matter for the court to speculate without evidence.

“If it knew, it would never have denied its existence. Also, because it did not call any witness, it has refused to put on record where it stored card reader data and PVC data. We submit that these are stored in a computer which is a storage device called server.”He said it was curious and strange that respondents were relying of Section 52 (2) of the Electorate Act to contend that electronic election is prohibited in the country.

“Instructively, the section they are relying on was amended and deleted by 2015 amendment and another provision made in the same 2015 in the same Section 52(2) that deleted the old one. The lower court also relied on that old provision to hold that electronic voting is prohibited in the country. We are informing this court that the new provision has not been interpreted or applied by this court and this is an opportunity to do so.”He therefore urged the court to allow the appeal.

In his argument, counsel to INEC, Usman Yunus (SAN), referred the court to pages 13 to 27 of the first respondent’s brief of argument and submitted that the appellants have woefully failed to prove that the first appellants scored majority of lawful votes cast at the election.“Out of 191,000 polling booths in the federation, the appellants called only five polling unit agents to prove that they scored majority of lawful votes cast at the election. The law requires that they must call every polling unit agent to testify. Of the 60 witnesses called, only five were polling agents and that was fatal to their case. I don’t know why they are here.

“On the issue of server, the appellants said we have a kind of server which we don’t have. My submission is that the appellants failed to prove that we have the server, which was created in their minds and through which they said the results were transmitted.”

Also, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN) told the court that he filed a brief on October 15 on behalf of the second respondent (President Buhari). Relying on the brief, he asked the court to dismiss the appeal, which according to him ought not to come up again after a painstaking election tribunal process and judgment.

“I will correct some misgivings. He was trying to make a mountain out of anthill. First, the difference in Buhari’s name is not a distinction. The difference between ‘Mohammed’ and ‘Muhammed’ is like the difference between 12 and half a dozen. The witness of the second respondent said he worked with him for over 30 years and had seen the graduation picture of the president.”

The counsel insisted that the lower court made a finding that there is no difference in the personality behind the two names, and quoted the proverb: he who lives in a glass house must not through stones. He claimed Uzoukwu had once been challenged for using both ‘Levy’ and ‘Livinus Ifeanyichukwu Uzoukwu’ and that the court concluded on that there was no difference between the two names.

Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who stood for the All Progressives Congress (APC), the third respondent, begged to rely on the process filed in urging the court to dismiss the appeal. He urged the court to allow him align with the various submissions of the counsel to the first and second respondents.He urged the court to consider the huge sums of money and logistics challenge associated with upturning elections and ordering fresh ones.Having listened to the parties, the court adjourned briefly. It reconvened about 30 minutes later and delivered a unanimous judgment.


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