- Line up 20 SANs, 400 witnesses
- Ask tribunal to sack Buhari and declare Atiku winner
- Our petition is quite solid and unassailable – Ozekhome
Nineteen days after the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the February 23rd presidential election, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar has finally filed his petition against the victory of Buhari at the poll.
In a seeming rush to beat the 21 days deadline provided by the Electoral Act, Atiku filed the petition before the tribunal in Abuja on Monday, asking it to declare him authentic winner of the election or order that a fresh poll should be conducted.
Atiku’s team of lawyers is led by Mr. Chukwuma Machukwu Ume, SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Buhari as winner but the PDP candidate rejected the result, alleging widespread irregularities.
Under section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2010, any candidate that was dissatisfied with the outcome of the presidential contest, was mandated to approach the tribunal with a petition, not later than 21 days after the result was announced, a deadline that will expire today (Tuesday); While the tribunal must deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date the petition was filed.
Addressing newsmen, National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, revealed that Atiku would be seeking two principal reliefs at the tribunal.
He said the first relief was for an order declaring him (Atiku) as the bona-fide winner of the 2019 presidential election, while in the alternative, Atiku and the PDP, are urging the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election on the premise that it was marred by irregularities.
“We asked that our candidate who won the election massively across the country be declared the winner.
“In the alternative, we also asked that the election be set aside on the ground of irregularity which was apparent across the country,” he said.
“We have a pool of 20 SANs who are tested in election petition matters and other senior lawyers who are also working with them. So we are confident.
“We have also lined up more than 400 witnesses that are going to testify in this petition.
“Nigerians are at home with what happened on February 23, the sham they called election. We are going to re-present those facts to Nigerians, we are not going to manufacture facts,” he added.
Likewise, a member of the legal team, Chief Ozekhome, SAN, told journalists that the petitioners encountered serious challenges in the hands of INEC which he said was reluctant to grant them access to the electoral materials.
“Our petition is quite solid, very strong and unassailable. We believe that by the grace of God, the original winner will regain his mandate,” Ozekhome boasted.
It will be recalled that the tribunal had on March 6, ordered INEC to grant Atiku and PDP access to all the electoral materials that were used for the presidential poll for inspection. The tribunal however declined the request of Atiku and PDP to conduct forensic analysis on any of the electoral materials on the premise that such request was outside the scope of the Electoral Act, as amended.
Justice Abdul Aboki who delivered the lead ruling of the tribunal, held that Atiku’s request for experts to be permitted to conduct forensic audit on the materials, could not be regarded as “inspection” that was allowed in section 151 of the Electoral Act.
He held that a decided case-law in Hope Uzodinma Vs Osita Izunaso, which Atiku and the PDP relied upon to make the application, wherein a tribunal ordered INEC to allow the petitioner to scan and conduct forensic audit on all the election materials, had since been set-aside by the Court of Appeal.
Nevertheless, the tribunal directed INEC to allow the Applicants access to the ballot papers and voters register.