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2007 polls: Tribunal upholds Yar’Adua’s victory

Posted by By GODWIN TSA Abuja on 2008/02/28 | Views: 837 |

2007 polls: Tribunal upholds Yar’Adua’s victory


The Presidential Election Tribunal on Tuesday threw out the petitions filed against the victory of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan by former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

The Presidential Election Tribunal on Tuesday threw out the petitions filed against the victory of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan by former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

Saying that the petitions were plagued by want of evidence, the tribunal, accordingly, upheld the election of Yar’Adua in a unanimous judgment. Presidential candidates of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Action Congress (AC) had, in their consolidated petitions, challenged the outcome of the election on account of non-compliance to provisions of the Electoral Act 2006, including alleged irregularities, ballot stuffing; rigging and corrupt practices. They accordingly prayed the tribunal to invalidate the election and order a fresh poll.
In its unanimous judgment, amid tight security, the tribunal held that the alleged non-compliance and corrupt practices were not substantial enough to warrant the nullification of the election. It held that there was no shred of evidence before it to substantiate the alleged irregularities.

The chairman of the tribunal, Justice James Ogenyi Ogebe, whose elevation to the Supreme Court generated some controversy, had excused himself from the panel. In his place, Justice John Atobi Fabiyi delivered the lead judgment that was concurred to by other members of the panel of justices. They are Justices Raphael Agbo, Abdulkadir Jaga and Uwani Musa Aba-Aji.

The tribunal, which commenced sitting at exactly 10am, had, in its three hours judgment taken time to knock off the issues raised by the petitioners with respect to the conduct of the presidential election and came to a conclusion that there was no credible evidence before it to warrant the nullification of the election.
Holding that the issues raised by the petitioners appeared trivial and insignificant, Justice Fabiyi stated: “It is not just all miniature complaint that can lead to the nullification of the election.”

On the issue raised by Buhari, to the effect that President Yar’Adua was not qualified to contest the election on the strength of his indictment by the Abia State white paper, the tribunal, while acknowledging that the document is legally valid, however, said there was nowhere in the white paper indicating that Yar’Adua was indicted of fraud.
Besides, he said it was only the court of law that can establish a case of fraud against anybody, adding that the said indictment offended section 36 of the 1999 constitution as Yar’Adua was not given an opportunity to defend himself.

Accordingly, Justice Fabiyi held that “the issue of indictment is of no moment and is accordingly resolved in favour of the 5th respondent (Yar’Adua).”
On the issue of substantial non-compliance to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2006 raised by Buhari, the tribunal said the petitioner failed to establish his case and did not fully set out the facts upon which he rested his case.

His words: “The petitioner has not fully set out the facts upon which he built his case. All that he has succeeded in placing before us are legal issues, inferences and opinion rather than material issues.”
He said Buhari did not lead evidence to establish to prove how the non-display of voters register before election, irregularities with respect to numbering and non-serialization of ballot papers, has affected the outcome of the election.

Justice Fabiyi further said that Buhari did not adduce evidence to prove, by cogent and compelling evidence, that the non-serialzation of the ballot papers gave rise to forgery and how it substantially affected the result of the presidential election.

The tribunal had, while exonerating the Army, the police and other security agencies of complicity in the conduct of the election finally dismissed Buhari’s petition for want of evidence.
In Atiku’s petition, the tribunal held that the allegations of substantial non-compliance to the provisions of the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election, as alleged by the petitioner, were not substantiated.
According to the tribunal, “where a petitioner alleged malpractice, corrupt practice and non-compliance, he has a duty to prove. It has not been demonstrated in this court how these allegations affected the outcome of the election.”

On the claim of Atiku that he was excluded from the conduct of the election, Justice Fabiyi said contrary to his claim, the evidence of his witnesses, including Chief Tom Ikimi, Senator Ben Obi, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, among others, were to the effect that he was not excluded but that he participated fully in the election.

His words: “It is true that from the date of nomination to April 16, 2007, INEC attempted to exclude the petitioner. But by the judgment of the Supreme Court, the coast was cleared for him and he contested actively. The petitioners, by their witnesses and conduct after the judgment of the Supreme Court, cannot be heard to say that they were excluded. They participated actively and were included in the election.”

It was also the position of the tribunal that no evidence was placed before it to prove that prospective voters were misled by the non-insertion of the Action Congress logo on the ballot papers.
On a final note, the tribunal held that the disparity and alleged discrepancies in the conduct of the presidential election were not sufficient to warrant the nullification of the election. It dismissed the two petitions and upheld the election of President Yar’Adua.

Speaking after the judgment, a visibly angry Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), counsel to Buhari, told members of the tribunal: “Conscience is a hat and a bag and everybody hangs his own.”
Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), counsel to Atiku, on his part expressed willingness to contest the judgment at the Supreme Court.

Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to Yar’Adua and Jonathan, hailed the judgment, saying it would strengthen the pillars of the nation’s democracy.

As early as 5 am, armed policemen took over all access roads to the Court of Appeal premises, venue of the tribunal sitting. Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), manned by fierce looking mobile policemen were stationed near the last entrance to the close. To complement regular policemen patrolling the area were squads of the elite anti-terrorists unit of the police, while men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps came with their Alsatian dogs.

Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro breezed into the venue of the sitting to monitor the security arrangement put in place and he left at about 10.50 am after satisfying himself that his men were in place. Some 200 meters away from the court premises, groups of supporters of General Buhari and President Yar’Adua engaged themselves in a game of wits, using placards and mock coffins to convey their messages to onlookers.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.