Justice Garba Mohammed has started delivering lead judgement on the main issues raised for determination by the petitioner (Peoples Democratic Party and Atiku Abubakar) and the respondents (Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari).
INEC raised 4 issues for determination, Buhari raised 3 issues, APC raised 6 issues, and PDP/Atiku raised 5 issues.
Justice Garba of the 2019 PEPT says; “There is no doubt the second respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) is not only qualified but is also eminently qualified,”
The tribunal says the petitioners failed to discharge the burden of proof that Buhari was not elected by a majority of lawful votes in the 2019 Presidential Election.
The tribunal noted that the allegations are criminal in nature and PDP/Atiku failed to prove it beyond reasonable doubt.
Tribunal declares Buhari is qualified to contest Presidential Election
Ruling on issue 1 and 2 raised by Atiku & PDP (which is whether Buhari possessed the requisite educational qualification to contest the presidential election and whether Buhari gave false information to aid his qualification in an affidavit submitted to INEC), Justice Garba said; a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to his Form CF001.
The Tribunal further noted that Buhari’s witnesses confirmed that Buhari had secondary school education before proceeding to military school. The tribunal added that the military school is higher than secondary education.
Also, the tribunal noted that the courses attended by Buhari are higher than secondary school education and Buhari only needed to show he had primary school education.
The tribunal consequently declared that the petitioner (Atiku and PDP) failed to proof the allegation of non-qualification or submission of false information to aid his qualification.
“Where the provision of the law is straight forward, the Court cannot give it an interpretation which it does not suggest,” the court said.
“In my view, the provisions of the Electoral Act are clearly inapplicable to the issues in contention,” Justice Garba added.
“There is no doubt the second respondent is not only qualified but is also eminently qualified,” the court ruled.
Tribunal rules on petitioners third issue
Ruling on the petitioners third issue (which is whether or not Buhari was elected by a majority of lawful votes in the February 23, 2019 election); the court noted that INEC manual made no provision for the electronic transmission of results.
“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,” the tribunal noted.
Consequently, the tribunal noted that the petitioners witnesses cannot be relied on to prove the existence of an INEC server into which results of the presidential poll was transmitted.
The tribunal further stated that card reader machines were only recognised for use to authenticate the owner of the voter card.
“Card reader machine has not replaced the voter register. A petitioner must rely on the card reader to prove non-accreditation or over-voting,” tribunal said.
“It is undeniable that the transmission of election result is manual at different and all levels of the elections at different stages from the states to the national level.”
“There is no provision authorising the first respondent or any of its officers to transfer election results to any of the servers. There is also nothing allowing the first respondents to use the smart card reader for the collation of results.”
“As can be seen it is not supported by any legal opinion. He relied on third-party information given to him by an anonymous whistleblower, who cannot be relied upon,” Justice Garba said.
Justice Garba further noted that the petitioner witness 60, Joseph Gbenga, cannot be relied upon since he is not a certified data analyst.
“It is my decision that PW 60 cannot be regarded as an expert. As a matter of fact, he admitted under oath that he is not certified,” the judge said.
The tribunal says the petitioners failed to discharge the burden of proof that Buhari was not elected by a majority of lawful votes.
Justice Garba led Tribunal ruling on issue 4 and 5
Ruling on issues 4 and 5 (which are whether or not the election was marred by corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act).
The tribunal noted that the allegations under the issues 4 and 5 are criminal in nature and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Garba further noted that; “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.”
Ibrahim Kenneth Suleiman is the Chief Political Editor at Naija Buzz News Network. He is a graduate of political science from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State. He specializes in preparing/approving of political news contents before publication. He currently heads Naija Buzz News team of political correspondents. From Nasarawa State, North-Central Nigeria, Ibrahim is a strong supporter of Manchester United Football Club England.