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2019 presidential poll: Atiku’s ‘stolen’ mandate will be retrieved soon – Legal team

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The lead lawyer representing the presidential candidate of the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar has expressed optimism that the legal team will do all it takes to retrieve the stolen mandate of their principal. 

Atiku, a former Vice President is contesting the result of the 2019 presidential election held on March 2 which President Muhammadu Buhari won. The former Vice President is alleging President Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) rigged the polls.

Atiku’s lead lawyer, Mr. Chukwuma Machukwu Ume, SAN, in an interview on Monday night, shortly after leading other lawyers to file a petition on behalf of the PDP presidential candidate at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja, that the case will be successful.

The challenge came in a bit to meet up with the 21 days stipulated by section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2010.

The petition, which was signed by Atiku himself, has the PDP as co-petitioner while INEC, APC and President Buhari as respondents.

Uzoukwu expressed optimism that his client would emerge victorious at the tribunal, saying he was convinced that PDP won the presidential election in the first place.

I believe we have sufficient facts to move the court to appreciate our case and grant us our reliefs.

We are ready and prepared to prove our case because it all depends on proofs and we are ready to prove our case.

We have filed the petition, which is most fundamental, with some documents,” he said.

Though he admitted the team was currently having challenges accessing documents from INEC, he said that would not deter them from continuing with the suit.

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We may be having some challenges accessing documents from INEC, notwithstanding, we have filed the petition and with time, INEC shall be made to obey the orders of the court of appeal and grant us access to electoral documents.

That we have filed petition does not mean we cannot make use of those documents when we eventually secure them from INEC.

Some members of the team were at the INEC office three times last week. They were at INEC on Sunday and even on Monday, but were asked to come tomorrow (Tuesday), that by then, they will provide them with some documents.

I do hope that INEC will keep to its words and do the needful, because they have no option as far as the matter is concerned. Because we are talking about the compliance with an order of the court,” he added.

Considering what has recently happened in Nigeria’s judiciary system , when asked if he still believes in the justice system, Uzoukwu said, “I don’t want to speculate, I still believe, with all honesty, that we have in this country, very knowledgeable and very courageous judges, and bearing in mind that, with this petition, I seriously believe the judiciary will be on trial. Also, the democracy will be on trial.”

To successfully prosecute the case at the tribunal, Atiku and the PDP are said to have assembled about 20 senior advocates and 400 witnesses.

The lawyers are praying the tribunal that, their client, Atiku, be returned “as person who won majority of lawful votes cast at the election”.

In an event that the main prayer does not scale through, the lawyers also pushed for an alternative prayer, “that the election be set aside and for the court to order a rerun”.

But, according to Uzoukwu, “the alternative prayer can only come to play if the court does not agree with us in the main prayer.

But I believe we have substantial facts to prove our case, to prove our entitlement to the main relief. I’m convinced beyond any doubt that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won the election.”

Having successfully filed the case, the petitioners now await the respondents to file their reply.

After filing their reply, the petitioners also have seven days to react to what they file, thereafter, the pre-trial will commence.

The tribunal has 180 days, under the electoral act, to adjudicate the petition.

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