Lawyers for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and those for the party, yesterday, argued that they would rely on three grounds to get the Supreme Court to overturn President Muhammadu Buhari’s last Wednesday victory at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
Atiku and his party had said they would be challenging the unanimous judgement by the five-man tribunal that confirmed Buhari’s victory at the February 23 presidential poll.
The former vice president went to the tribunal seeking to overturn the victory of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was running for a second term in the February 23 presidential poll.
His petition did not succeed for failing to prove allegations of irregularities against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Buhari and the APC, the tribunal declared in a judgement that lasted for over eight hours, last Wednesday.
In a unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Mohammed Garba, the five-man panel held that all the five issues raised by the petitioner against the respondent were not proved.
But shortly after the verdict, Atiku and the PDP vowed to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision, but did not give the date their appeal would be filed.
Section 134(3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 provides that an appeal from the tribunal would be heard and disposed of within 90 days from date of the judgement.
Arguing their case, Atiku’s lead counsel, Levy Uzoukwu, SAN, said there were a number of grounds upon which the appeal would be successfully challenged.
Uzoukwu said that contrary to the position of the tribunal that you don’t need to attach copies of certificates listed, the INEC Form CF001 clearly states that you must attach evidence of qualifications before you swear to an affidavit.
He added that the chairman of the tribunal also erred by his statement that “for Army to say so, it could be inferred that he submitted his certificates upon his enlistment. Interestingly, none of the three respondents raised that point in the trial. So, the court generated that, and that would tell you the extent the justices went.”
“Just look at the issue of the server, which has now thoroughly embarrassed them; the presiding justice unequivocally said the existence of the server was not proved. Now, the second justice, who gave the second judgement said that the petitioners recklessly hacked into the server and shamelessly presented the material to the court. This completely contradicts what the presiding justice said.
“That is not all, Justice Oseji came from another angle and said that the petitioners proved the issue of the server, and agreed with us that server is a storage device, which a computer is and that the INEC relied on our case and called no evidence. So, I just don’t understand.”
Another fundamental one, where we indicated that the areas put together, where elections did not take place, the total number of voters nullified the difference of the votes between Atiku and Buhari, they didn’t say one word on any of that.
“In this one, we subpoenaed the INEC, which brought Form EC40G, where on its own tabulated areas, election did not take place and the registered number of voters came to 2.7million, where elections were cancelled. We tendered this and addressed it copiously.
“We also tendered what they published on their website. I think that one was 2.6 million, where they organised supplementary elections for National Assembly, and elections were cancelled. It took place simultaneously with the presidential. Accreditation was also simultaneously by the same parties.
“At the point of voting, you go to the box for National Assembly. So, you cannot say that for presidential, election took place and for National Assembly, election did not take place in the same polling unit.
“We addressed all these issues. But they cleverly departed from it and not a word on it, and moved on as if nothing happened.
“We are going to articulate all these in our Notice of Appeal. We have 14 days and they have not given us the judgement because they said they were going to correct some errors,” he said.
Also speaking about the intention to challenge the judgement, counsel to Atiku, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said several things were wrong with it, among which he said were poor evaluation of evidence, non-evaluation of evidence, misplacement of exactly what the case of the petitioners is, and the fact of provisions of the Electoral Act being misinterpreted and misapplied.
“At the Supreme Court, there will be seven very good heads that will hear the appeal from here. There is no question about that; we will appeal the judgement,” he said.
The Minister of State for Niger Delta and one of the lawyers to the APC, Festus Keyamo, SAN, did not respond to calls and text message to him over the matter.
But one of the lawyers to Buhari, Sam Ologunorisa, SAN, said the appeal was expected, but added that it would help to enrich the country’s law.
“As lawyers, our opinions on issues of law and evaluation of facts arising therefrom are bound to differ. The presidential election petition and the issues so distilled will generate this type of reaction as the stakes are high.
“In all, our legal jurisprudence is bound to be richer and I hope the political class will learn one or two lessons and initiate appropriate reforms to deepen our democracy.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party was confident of winning at the Supreme Court.
Speaking to newsmen, yesterday, Ologbondiyan said the Supreme Court would dwell on the substance of the case and deliver justice.
“There are two levels of courts and we believe that the tribunal took over the responsibility of the respondent counsel by shopping for the cases they didn’t make. That is the position of our party, which was changed to law and jurisprudence.
“We believe that when we go to the Supreme Court, which is the highest court, we will take another look at the substance of the five issues the tribunal claimed to have addressed, and we believe that they would do justice on all the issues,” he said.
Similarly, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku, has confirmed that his team and that of the party were working together to challenge the judgement.
Atiku’s special adviser on media, Paul Ibe, told our source in a telephone interview, yesterday, that his boss and PDP’s legal team were studying the judgement before taking the necessary action at the apex court.
Asked whether Atiku or his camp had confidence of winning at the Supreme Court, Ibe simply replied, “Let’s get there first. We are on the road. This is not about Atiku, it is about Nigeria and Nigerians. It is about our future and the need to reset our destiny. It is about creating jobs and making Nigerians better.”
Adding his view to the argument about going to the Supreme Court, a former director-general of the Nigerian Law School, Prof Tahir Mamman, said it was within the right of Atiku and the PDP to appeal against the decision of the tribunal.
He explained that the cost element of the petition may not be a problem for Atiku.
“It is okay if he appeals, but whether or not his appeal succeeds is a different matter. Nobody tried to predict what the Appeal Court would do earlier. But overall, if you look at the unanimous judgement of the court, it is a landmark decision; very comprehensive. All the issues were taken within the prism of the requirement provisions of the Electoral Act and the Evidence Act,” he said.
But Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, faulted the tribunal’s decision, saying it erred by claiming that the petitioners dumped electoral materials on the tribunal by not leading evidence through the makers.
“It is a misapplication of the principle in Duriminya v. C.O.P (Supra) to expect the petitioner to come and read afresh to the court the same evidence already contained in the exhibits, which were tendered and received without objection. The tribunal erred seriously by failing to see that forms EC8A and EC8B are statutory forms complete on their own as to their source and purport, and which cannot, therefore, be equated with ordinary documentary exhibits.
“It is, therefore, my contention that there is a need for our courts to reconsider their stand on the issues of who can tender certified true copies of public documents and the weight to be attached to it and the arguments that unless documents tendered are demonstrated, courts should regard them as dumping. If court cannot look at documents tendered and interpret the man making meaning out of it, then what is the duty of the court?” he queried.
Another lawyer, Abeny Mohammed, SAN, however, advised both parties in the matter to obtain copies of the judgement and study them before determining the next course of action.
A former Kaduna State governor, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, described the decision by Atiku to head to Supreme Court as the right decision, saying Buhari did same years back.
The elder statesman also said it was in the interest of Nigerians for the matter to go to the Supreme Court because that would show everybody that there is justice in the country.
“I think his decision to go the Supreme Court is right. He should do it for his own sake because he feels aggrieved. That is one. Secondly, even his competitor, Buhari, went up to the Supreme Court when he had the same problem. So, why can’t Atiku also go?
“Thirdly, it is even in the interest of Nigerians for the matter to go up to the Supreme Court because that will show everybody whether there is justice or not. The Supreme Court is supposed to be more articulate than the tribunal; therefore, it can do more justice.
“Finally, the outcome of the Supreme Court will enable Nigerians to know more about the law. Of course, in addition to this, I, therefore, say also that for me as an individual politician, there is no different between the PDP candidate, Atiku and the APC candidate, Buhari,” he said.
The Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Ms. Idayat Hassan, toeing the line of Balarabe Musa, also argued that the tribunal, having given its reasons for the decision, the petitioner, Atiku and the PDP have a right to exhaust all remedies, and that is why they are going to the Supreme Court.
“However, the most important thing to happen is that our electoral jurisprudence must change. The burden of proof on the petitioner to prove his case may lead to the defeat of justice in the long run. We have to reach a point where it shouldn’t just be “he who asserts, must prove,” but also those who claim to have conducted elections must prove that they did it within extant regulations,” she said.
On his part, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the country was running a constitutional democracy, and under constitutional democracy, the courts must be obeyed.
“Whatever the feelings of any aggrieved party, they have to accept the verdict of the court, and if they strongly believe that they have a case, they can proceed to explore other democratic and legal means. We will not encourage anybody to do anything that is not within democratic norms.
“I think this is not really good because President Buhari’s victory was not challenged in 2015, and now in 2019, his election is being challenged, which means that there may be infractions in the conduct of the election. We appeal to Nigerians to remain calm and for President Buhari to face governance. He should also caution his aides, supporters and officials from making derogatory remarks or mockery of opponents.
“We should face governance now. The only thing that would ameliorate the disaffection of the people who felt otherwise is for Buhari to put tangible programmes that would deliver good governance and job security for the people. The president should be focused and make the anti-corruption efforts succeed,” he said.
Rivers’ll Ensure Safe, Secure Environment For Economic Growth -Wike .
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that his administration would continue to support security agencies in the state to ensure a safe and secure environment for the economic prosperity of citizens.
He said the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the Operation Sting and the revitalised C4i security outfits were set up to help provide security to stimulate growth and prosperity of all in Rivers State.
The governor spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the 2021 Conference/Annual General meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Rivers State chapter, in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
“This administration has embarked on aggressive infrastructural development and a very deliberate urban renewal efforts around the capital to attract local and foreign investors to stimulate our economy.
“We have also opened up local governments through quality road networks. Upgrade of various social and recreational facilities in various local government areas,” he said.
He commended the state chapter of the NIPR for the choice of the theme of the conference: “Nigeria’s Security Situation: A Factor in Reputation and National Development”, adding that stakeholders must begin to act in a very different, drastic and positive strategy to remedy the already battered reputation of Nigeria.
He urged the NIPR to use its expertise and experience to thrive to galvanise and stimulate the populace and government at various levels for the resuscitation of citizens sense of pride and responsibility of whatever was left of the nation’s image and reputation.
“All hands must be on deck, especially reputation managers to call on government at all levels to begin to act in ways and manner that will help to revive the battered image of this country,” he added.
Welcoming guests and participants to the conference, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who is also the state chairman of NIPR, commended the cordial relationship existing between the institute and the state government under the leadership of Governor Wike who is a honorary fellow of the institute.
“Governor Wike has been very supportive of all the activities of the Institute. That is what you also get from a visionary leader who has changed the landscape of Rivers State with infrastructure, with various developmental projects that touch the lives of the ordinary man,” he said.
Nsirim said the state chapter of NIPR was proud to associate with Governor Wike for the giant strides he has recorded and would continue to record until the end of his tenure in 2023.
“As a chapter that is responsive to the development of Nigeria, we have chosen the theme for this year’s conference as our own way of contributing to the national discourse,” he said.
He said the conference would produce a blueprint that would guide national discourse and urged participants to contribute robustly to the conversation.
“It is expected that the fallout of the conference will re-engineer national security and national development with the aim to put our country on the path of rapid growth,” he said.
In his speech, the President and Chairman of Governing Council of NIPR, Malam Mukhtar Sirajo, emphasised on the need for all Nigerians to collaborate to fight insecurity currently confronting the country’s economic and political stability.
He welcomed the theme of the conference, saying that it was coming at the time the institute had gotten sufficient worry about national security, peace and economic development.
In his keynote address, Dr. Ike Neliaku, chronicled the increasing violent crimes that had claimed thousands of lives in the various parts of Nigeria, and submitted that the rising insecurity situation in the country had impacted and would continue to impact negatively on corporate and national reputation.
He said the worrisome development would have concomitant consequence on individual and national development.
Chairman of the conference, Chief Felix Otuwarikpo, said the conference was put together to dissect the current carnage affecting the Nigerian nation.
“As an institute, we will leverage on the conference to proffer solutions to the security challenges affecting the nation,” he said.
The conference also featured the presentation of awards for good public relations and community development to some distinguished members and organisations.
Church Of Nigeria Honours Wike, Sanwo-Olu, Akeredolu, Others
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has bestowed awards for exemplary leadership qualities in a challenging economy and dedication in the service of God and humanity on the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and Ogun State Governor, Adedapo Abiodun.
Also honoured is the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Emmanuel Abayomi, with an award for quality and equitable healthcare delivery.
The awardees were honoured at the standing committee meeting of the Church of Nigeria, at the Diocese of Lagos, Archbishop Adebola and Oluranti Ademowo Resource Centre, Faith Plaza, Bariga, Lagos State.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, who conferred the awards on the recipients, said the political leaders were considered for the award for their outstanding role, courageous leadership, and standing firm in defense of Nigerians against insecurity, provision of basic infrastructure to the citizenry and the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the congregation on the state of the nation and the role of the church, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, admonished the leadership of the church to encourage its members to be part of the governance process in the country.
The governor noted that a situation whereby Christians leave governance for politicians alone is no longer obtainable.
According to Wike, the effect of bad leadership will also affect the church if they remain passive to the issue of governance.
“You must be part of choosing leadership. Don’t say you have no role, you have a role. When you don’t participate, bad leaders will emerge and when bad leadership emerges, you are part of it.
“You must encourage your people to be part of leadership. I didn’t go to any school to study leadership.
“So, nobody should say that as a Christian you cannot be a governor, no. The head of SUBEB in my state is a priest and you can see the leadership he has given to that agency today. You will feel proud about it. That used to be the most corrupt agency, but today it is headed by a priest and you can see the difference.”
Wike decried the inherent injustice that has characterised the Nigerian State, and urged the church to speak against socio-political issues adversely affecting the progress of the country.
“We say we are all one Nigeria. We went to World Bank to borrow money to do specific projects. One of the states that make up Nigeria I hear is Rivers State. And I also know in paying this money back to World Bank, money that comes from the resources of my state will be used in paying back this money. But my state was denied to have projects from that loan.”
The Rivers State governor said a situation where states depend on the Federal Government to survive can no longer be tenable, and insisted that states must be allowed to collect revenues such as Value Added Tax (VAT) to enable them improve the welfare of their people.
“You have gone to take loan and I am one of those states that will pay back those loan and you deny me to benefit from the projects that that money will be used for. I have no problem with that.
“Allow me the one (VAT) the Constitution says I am entitled to, let me collect that one and develop my state.”
He regretted that some governors in Nigeria have refused to think out of the box on how to boost economic activities in their states.
“There is flood in my state, it requires N200millon, I will go to Abuja to beg. Even as a governor, I will knee down before a DG of an agency of government. You will knee down for a director just because of N300million. That is the status of some of the governors of some states.”
In his remarks, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended the church for its support, and announced the waiver of N2billion for land acquired by the Church of Nigeria in Lagos State.
The governor stated that Nigeria and the rest of the world are going through difficult times amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and used the occasion to canvass for mass vaccination of the citizens.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, while speaking on the theme of the conference: “Abiding in Christ: God’s Panacea in an Unstable World”, lamented that Nigeria was fast becoming a land flowing with tears and blood because of the impact of terror, banditry, herdsman attacks on communities and kidnapping.
He said a situation in which communities that are predominantly Christians are targeted one after another in some parts of Kaduna State and North-Central of Nigeria was unacceptable.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to brand the bandits and herders attackers as terrorists and let them be treated as such.”
The Primate urged Nigerians to avail themselves the opportunity 2023 general election offer to exercise their right to choose new leaders.
He appealed to the Federal Government to urgently address the free fall in the value of the country’s currency because of the attendant impact on the store of value and confidence of investors.
Rivers Begins Process To Check Flooding
The Rivers State Government has said that it was working with relevant agencies to roll out the process that would check perennial flooding in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this at a media briefing in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday.
Nsirim, therefore, called on those living and doing business in the state to play their part in line with the programme that would be executed by government to address the problem of flooding.
He frowned at the situation where residents of Port Harcourt had turned the drainage systems into refuse bins, and warned that “that is not what it should be.
“The present administration under Governor Nyesom Wike is desirous to make Rivers State a destination of choice and that is why the government has embarked on massive infrastructural development in line with its urban renewal programme.
“So, what is expected of those living and doing business in Rivers State now, is to co-operate with government to ensure that the urban renewal programme and the plan by government to make this state a destination of choice is realised,” he said.
He noted that the state government could not do it alone as it required the support of corporate organisations, civil society groups, religious organisations and the media to enlighten their publics on the need to behave as responsible citizens.
He called on the media to embark on massive enlightenment programmes along the line of the roles of citizens in checking flooding in the state.
“We believe that if the citizens cooperate with government, as government is out to ensure that everyone living and doing business in the state does so in a healthy environment, we believe that in the next few days or weeks we will find a solution to this (flooding),” he said.
Nsirim also announced the names of entrants selected for the essay competition on the title, “Our State Our Responsibility” introduced under the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign of the ministry launched at the beginning of this month.
He said those shortlisted were expected to be at the conference room of the ministry by 11am on Monday, September 27, 2021, for a physical test to ascertain their original ownership.
Those shortlisted are: Jessica Hart, Samuel William, Amarachi Chimezie, Jasper Dorcas, Jaja Tamunoimiegba Christian, Sophia Oyibo, Blessing Pepple, Anyiam kelechukwu, Deborah Adegbami, Gift Samuel, Okiche Golden, Okiche Miracle, Orovwigwo Deborah, Otuka Goodluck and Ziga Paago.
By: Beemene Taneh
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