Non-citizenship: APC prays tribunal to strike out PDP, Atiku’s petition

The All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday prayed the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to strike out Atiku Abubakar’s petition against President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election because he is not a Nigerian by birth.

Abubakar, a former vice president, contested the Feb.23 general election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The presidential candidate of the PDP and his party approached the tribunal seeking his declaration as to the rightful winner of the election.

Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, Counsel to the APC made the call while responding to the petitioners’ motion seeking the striking out of APC’s reply to the petition.

“My Lords, I am opposing this application on the qualification of the first petitioner (Abubakar). I am standing by the proof we have supplied in our reply.

“The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Feb.23 presidential election was not qualified to contest the election in the first place.

“I therefore, pray the tribunal to strike out the petitioners’ application for lacking in competence and merit,’’ Fagbemi said.

The third respondent (APC) insisted that Abubakar, was not a citizen of Nigeria by birth and ought not to have even been allowed in the first place to contest the election.

Chief Chris Uche, SAN, Counsel for the petitioners while adopting the application, argued that historic records showed that the former vice president was a citizen of Nigeria by birth.

Uche, therefore, urged the panel to discountenance Fagbemi’s submission by granting the application.

The motion filed by the petitioners seeking access to inspect the saver and other election materials used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was also heard.

Uche had the tribunal grant the application as doing so would be in the interest of justice and transparency.

NAN reports that the application was vehemently objected to by all the counsel to the respondents.

On his part, Mr Yunus Usman, SAN, Counsel for INEC, averred that the application was dead before arrival, adding that the electoral body did not collect the results of the election through a saver.

“My Lord, the commission did not deploy such technology infrastructure in the last general election,’’ he said.

Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Counsel for Buhari said the application was laughable, adding that the Court of Appeal in Abuja had ruled against similar application brought to it by the same parties.

“We also wanted such information if the technology was used, but our application demanding access to the saver was dismissed. We have attached the enrolled order in our reply,’’ Olanipekun said.

Similarly, Fabgemi, counsel for APC aligned himself to the argument advanced by Usman and Olanipekun, adding, however, that no provisions in the country’s statute books allowed the request made by the petitioners.

The APC had particularly faulted the claim by the petitioners that they obtained the authentic results of the election from a server maintained by INEC showing that they won.

The electoral body on Feb. 27 announced the second respondent (Buhari) of the APC winner of the election scoring 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, with 11,262,978 votes.

However, the PDP in an affidavit claimed that its candidate instead polled a total of 18,356,732 votes defeating Buhari who scored 16,741,430 votes.

Justice Mohammed Garba reserved ruling on the motions.

The judge went ahead to adjourn further proceedings on the petition until June 24.

In another development, a total of nine motions and counter affidavit were adopted and argued in petition the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate, Albert Owuru instituted against Buhari’s re-election.

Mr Oliver Eya, Counsel for the petitioners had urged the tribunal to cancel the Feb.23 presidential election on account of alleged deceit by INEC.

Eya explained that shift in the date of the election from Feb.16 was a clear ploy by the commission to encourage electoral fraud.

He also submitted that the petitioners had conducted a nationwide referendum on Feb.16 and won the election.

Eya, therefore, prayed the tribunal to grant the motion and go ahead to also declare his clients as winners of the election.

NAN reports that the application came under heavy fire by counsel to the respondents.

Usman, counsel for INEC said the motion was incompetent for failing to include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a party to the suit.

Usman also said that the reasons for the shift in the date of the election was discussed with all stakeholders and approved by them before the commission went ahead to announce it.

NAN reports that Justice Garba adjourned hearing in the petition until June 20. (NAN)

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