Presidential poll: Court reserves judgment in HDP’s petition against Buhari, others
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) as reserved judgment in the petition by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its candidate, Ambrose Owuru against the outcome of the last presidential election won by President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Respondents to the petition are Buhari the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC.
On Monday, parties adopted their final written addresses, following which the Presiding Justice, Justice Mohammed Garba announced that the date for judgment will be communicated to parties by the court’s registry.
It is the petitioners’ core contention that they deserved to be announced winners having won, with 50million votes, a referendum allegedly conducted by a civil society group after INEC unlawfully postponed the presidential election earlier scheduled for February16, 2019.
Petitoners’ lawyer, Chukwunoyerem Njoku, while adopting his address, urged the court to void the presidential election held on February 23, 2019 on the grounds that INEC did not comply with the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act before postponing the election earlier scheduled for February 16, 2019.
Njoku stated that Nigerian citizens participated, as required by law, in the said referendum held on February 16, 2019.
The petitioners’ lawyer urged the court to void INEC’s decision to declare President Buhari as the winner of the last presidential election and replace him Owuru as the authentic winner.
On his part, President Buhari’s lead lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) noted that the petitioners. have o case against his client.
Olanipekun said he has carefully scrutinised the petitioners’ final written address and found that there was nowhere in the address that they made out any case against his client.
He noted that the petitioners have also failed to prove their claim that a referendum was indeed held.
Olanipekun added that the petitioners did not in any way supply evidence on how the so called referendum was conducted and who conducted it.
He urged the court to dismiss the petition, arguing that it is frivolous, baseless and without merit.
INEC’s lead lawyer Yunus Usman (SAN) was of the view that the petition lacked merit.
Usman argued that INEC only conducted an election that is known to law, not a referendum as claim by the petitioners.
He argued that the petitioners’ claims are strange to INEC and the law.
Usman urged the court to uphold INEC’s decision to declare President Buhari as winner of the APC as the winner of the lawfully held February 23 presidential election.
He equally prayed the court to dismiss the petition with substantial cost to serve as a deterrent to those who may wish to waste the court’s time by filing frivolous and baseless petitions in future election.
Arguing in similar vein, APC’s lead lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN) prayed the court to dismiss the petition for being unmeritorious.
At the hearing of the petition on July 22, 2019 the petitioners called a witness, Yusuf Ibrahim, who adopted his written statement on oath as his evidence in the case, following which the witness was cross examined by Yusuf Ali (SAN), for Buhari; Olujimi (for) and Usman (for INEC.
While being cross-examined by Ali, Ibrahim said he voted in the February 16 referendum and that he was in the country on February 23 and voted during the presidential and National Assembly elections of that day.
He agreed that Buhari was elected and declared the winner of the presidential election of February, 23.
The witness added that he had no document attached to his witness’s statement on oath as evidence for the 50 million votes allegedly polled by his party’s candidate at the alleged presidential referendum.
The witness said INEC did not conduct the referendum but that it was conducted by a group he referred to as “Citizenship Organisations”. He said the documents he had in relation to the referendum were with his lawyers.
Under cross-examination by Olujinmi , Ibrahim admitted that INEC alone has the power to conduct an election in the country.
He added: “We have referendum where people’s voice should be heard,” following which the APC lawyer asked if the referendum was “celestial”, a word the witness said he did not understand, and asked the lawyer to use an easier work.”
Olujinmi asked: “Was it celestial, not terrestrial? Was it something that happened in the spiritual realm?”
The witness responded: “It was a physical one and not spiritual.” He added that the referendum was not conducted on the internet and that it was not on “INEC server”.
During cross-examination by Usman, Ibrahim said he was aware that “it is only INEC that can conduct election today in Nigeria”.
The witness agreed that his party did not claim to be the winner of the February 23 presidential election.
The court rejected two other witnesses called by the petitioners, including a subpoenaed witness, on the grounds that they had no written depositions, as required by law.
The petitioners also tendered documents, including copies of newspapers, a document, titled: Citizen Observers Referendum Election Right Protection of Nigeria, and INEC’s “final list of presidential candidates.”
At the end of the petitioners’ case on July 22, 2019 respondents’ lawyers – Ali, Olujinmi and Usman – told the court that they did not intend to call witnesses and would rely on the case as presented by the petitioners.