ABUJA—Respite came the way of President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday, as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, in a unanimous judgment, upheld results of the April 16 presidential election that brought him into power.
A five-man panel of justices that presided over a petition that was lodged before the tribunal by the opposition Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, yesterday, said they were satisfied that President Jonathan and his Vice, Namadi Sambo, won the presidential election and were duly returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in accordance with both the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Delivering the lead judgment yesterday, chairman of the tribunal, Justice Kumai Bayaang Akaahs, held that the petitioner failed to substantiate its allegation that the presidential poll was fraught with manifest irregularities that substantially affected the result of the election. continue reading
Relying on sections 131, 132, 134, 159(1) of the Evidence Act and Supreme Court decided case law in Buhari vs. Obasanjo, Justice Akaahs maintained that the petitioner did not discharge the burden of proof, stressing that all the witness depositions and evidences adduced before the court by CPC, amounted to hearsay.
The tribunal equally discountenanced oral testimonies of 46 witnesses of the CPC who had alleged that President Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, connived with corrupt electoral officials and rigged election in 22 states of the federation.
Though the court noted that the allegation was criminal in nature, it however dismissed it on grounds that it was not supported by empirical evidence.
“If a surgical operation is to be carried out on the petition, it will be seen that the main allegations were made in paragraphs 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 35 and 38. These seemingly untended paragraphs cannot sustain the petition.
“Before a petition can succeed on grounds of non-compliance to the Electoral Act, the petitioner must prove that the non-compliance actually took place and substantially affected the result of the election as was decided in the case between Awolowo and Shagari.
“There is no doubt that it is the statutory duty of the 1st defendant, INEC, to conduct and defend election as an independent and unbiased umpire, however, mere allegation by the petitioner or calling hearsay evidence cannot shift burden of proof to the 1st defendant.
“The onus to establish substantial non-compliance is on the petitioner, it is only after then that the burden shifts to the respondents to prove that the election was not marred by substantial irregularities.
“In which ever angle this petition is looked at, the petitioner did not discharge the burden of proof given on the balance of probability.
“Consequently, the 3rd and 4th respondents (Jonathan and Sambo) won the April 16 presidential election conducted by the 1st respondent (INEC) and were returned by the 2nd respondent (Professor Attahiru Jega) as the duly elected President and Vice President respectively. The petition failed in its entirety and is hereby dismissed. There is no order as to cost”, Justice Akaahs ruled.
Four other justices on the tribunal panel, Mohammed Garba, M.A. Owoade, I.I. Agbube and Justice Obande Ogbuiya, took turns and adopted the lead judgment as their personal verdict on the matter.
It will be recalled that CPC had in its petition, challenged results that were garnered by the PDP in all the 17 states in the South, as well as in Sokoto, Kaduna, Plateau, Kwara, Benue, Adamawa, Nasarawa states in the North and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The petitioner alleged that ballot papers meant for specific polling units were illegally diverted to other units and subsequently used for ballot stuffing.
It equally told the tribunal that a local printing company, Tulip Nigeria Limited, printed fake ballot papers that it said was used by the ruling party in rigging the election.
Consequently, it pleaded with the tribunal to nullify the presidential election and order a re-run between it and the PDP, a prayer that was refused yesterday.
Tribunal ruling affirms Nigerians’ will —Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday boasted that the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, at the Court of Appeal, which upheld his election as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria affirms the massive votes he got from majority of Nigerians.
The President in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, described the judgment as a triumph for democracy and an affirmation of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people.
He praised the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and its Presidential Candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, for their respect for the rule of law and the Constitution, saying their recourse to judicial review of their grievances affirms their faith in the nation’s judiciary.
Extending the hands of fellowship to the CPC and General Buhari, the President called on them to accept the decision of the tribunal, put the past behind them and support his administration’s efforts to transform the nation.
“From this day, let us move forward together as we work to deepen the democratic content of our polity and build a nation of our collective desire,” the President said, adding, “the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal is a victory for all Nigerians”.
President Jonathan expressed his appreciation to all Nigerians for their steadfastness and support, stating “the resolve of his administration to continue to provide good governance, anchored on the strong foundations of honesty, transparency, hard work and fairness to all”.
We will appeal the judgment —Tony Momoh
Immediately the verdict was delivered, the CPC National Chairman, Prince Tony Momoh, yesterday, described it as an anathema to the tenets of justice.
Prince Momoh who said he was not surprised that the verdict went in favour of President Jonathan, said the party will not only take the matter to the apex court, but will remain resolute in its determination towards proving that the presidential election was substantially rigged by the PDP.
“What they forgot is that there are three kinds of judgments, the judgment of the conscience, the judgment of the people and the judgment of God”, he added.
Likewise, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who was ostensibly livid that the CPC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) lost at the tribunal yesterday, said he knew that the PDP and President Jonathan would manipulate the judiciary with a view to covering all the electoral malpractices he said was the hallmark of the April 16 presidential election, adding that it was the grand reason why the Court of Appeal President, Justice Isa Ayo Salami was removed from office.
His words: “this judgment did not take us by surprise at all since it was the same tribunal that ruled that INEC cannot be compelled to produce the database it used in conducting the election. However, we are going to appeal at the Supreme Court not because we can win there, but because we want posterity to judge everybody. We know that it was for this reason that they removed Justice Salami and reconstituted the panel.”
The judgment was a miscarriage of justice — Fashakin
The National Publicity Secretary of CPC, Engr Rotimi Fashakin said “we proved that INEC conducted a shambolic exercise in the South East and South South regions. INEC could not controvert that with evidence of witnesses. What about the motion for judgment that INEC obstructed the course of justice by refusing to allow unfettered access to the materials in its possession which would facilitate the CPC petition? The tribunal judgment was fraught with inconsistencies that would be seen by the appellate court. Let me say clearly, we shall appeal this judgment.
It’s cheap victory — Odumakin
Mr Yinka Odumakin, spokesman to General Buhari said “there was no surprise in the verdict given all the shenanigans that went into the victory of the PDP. Don’t forget that we saw how the Court of Appeal panel was constituted and how the panel began to frustrate our case. The panel also frustrated a subpoena requesting the chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega to appear before the panel. I do not think Nigerians are fools not to understand what happened. As far as we are concerned, it is a cheap victory for the PDP. We want to encourage our teeming supporters to keep faith in the project called Nigeria because on the long run, victory is certain.
The court shortchanged itself — Sagay
Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) said “I have not seen the reason given by the court but the court prohibited itself from having full access to the facts. Without copies of the ballot papers, the issues of checking multiple voting materials, makes it difficult. Having prevented the petitioners from going through the election materials, the court has shortchanged itself in the process.
We must respect our court system — Oyegun
Former governor of Edo State, Chief John Oyegun said “that is the end of the matter. We must learn to respect our court system. The opposition, especially the CPC, was disabled. In my own opinion, we (opposition) must blame ourselves because we did not prepare properly. We were not united but that does not mean that the election was well conducted.”
I’m surprised at the verdict — Aturu
Human rights lawyer, Mr Bamidele Aturu said “the way our electoral laws are, it is difficult for a respondent to successfully challenge an election in Nigeria because of the difficulties on our laws. I am not surprised at all but I think we need to commend the CPC for challenging the results of the election. I am not surprised at the judgment at all but let us see whether the CPC will go to the Supreme Court of not.”