December 11, 2008

Presidential polls: Yar’Adua, Buhari, Atiku know fate Friday

President Umaru Yar’Adua
The hue and cry over the April 21, 2007 presidential election will come to an end on Friday when the Supreme Court is expected to deliver judgment on the twin appeals instituted by Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, contesting the declaration of President Umaru Yar’Adua by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal as the winner of the election.

At the last hearing of the appeals by a full-panel of the apex court, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, had told counsel in the suit after the arguments that a judgment date would be communicated to them.

Checks conducted by Daily Sun at the Supreme Court shows that counsel in the matter have all been notified that the court will deliver its judgment on the matter.
The appellants, Buhari and Atiku, presidential candidates of the All Nigeria Peoples Party [ANPP] and Action Congress [AC] respectively in the April polls are asking the apex court to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal which sat as the Presidential Elections Petition Tribunal that upheld the victory of Yar’Adua of the Peoples Democratic Party in the election and order fresh polls.
All parties in the two appeals had adopted their brief of arguments at the hearing, which contained all the issues they wanted to address on the disputed election.

Atiku had in his brief of argument which was prepared by Emeka Ngige (SAN) said heavens would not fall if Yar’Adua’s election is nullified, just as he asked the apex court to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] under the leadership of Maurice Iwu from conducting the re-run election expected to be ordered by the apex court.

It was also Atiku’s position that “the court was in serious error in invoking the issue of security and welfare of the country as an excuse for saving a seriously flawed election.”
In his brief of argument as prepared by his lead counsel, Mike Ahamba (SAN), Buhari claimed that results in the election were arbitrarily assigned, adding that some of them were prepared before the elections.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria further told the court that the non-serialization of the ballot papers used for the election among other issues of non-compliance with the provisions of the laws guiding the conduct of the election are enough grounds for the election to be nullified and another conducted by a new leadership of INEC.
Responding, counsel to President Yar’Adua, Olaipekun, (SAN) claimed that the two appellants had failed to prove their allegation of the election not being in substantial compliance with the extant electoral laws, particularly the Electoral Act 2006.
He added that the documentary evidence produced by Buhari to prove that the election did not meet the required acceptable standard amounted to nothing because they needed the testimony of witnesses to have a life.

Olanipekun had while adopting Yar’Adua’s brief submitted that the apex court lacked the power to grant the reliefs being sought by Buhari, as according to him “the reliefs to be granted by the court must be in accordance with the Electoral Act. The reliefs asked for by the appellants are not grantable.”
In his submission, counsel to INEC, Kanu Agabi, SAN, stated that the non-compliance as identified by the appellants was not enough to vitiate the outcome of the election, adding that the appellants did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the lapses in the conduct of the election affected the outcome.
Buhari had filed a 264-page appellant brief with contribution from expert auditors, while Atiku had also concluded 39 grounds of appeal in his brief.

Reacting on Wednesday, Atiku said he was ready for the ruling. “Naturally, as stakeholders it is our desire that the apex court would redress the injustice done to us by the ruling party Peoples Democratic Party in the April 2007 presidential election which was brazenly rigged by those who were bent on capturing power by hook or by crook. We would be most delighted if the verdict turns out in our favour because it is the right thing to do. We have devoted so much time and resources to prove our contention that the election was a sham,” Atiku said.

In a statement signed by Garba Shehu, Atiku said he would have no hesitation but to abide by the verdict.
“As a responsible and law-abiding politician, my commitment to the rule of law, peaceful quest for justice through our nation’s judicial institutions remain unshaken. Also, my commitment to the oneness of Nigeria is non-negotiable. But while reiterating my belief in the rule of law and peaceful avenues for legal redress, I am not losing sight of the repercussions of deodorizing the unprecedented fraud in the 2007 presidential election. Such a decision will deepen our sense of injustice over the electoral heist perpetuated by anti-democratic forces last year.

“He said all eyes are on the Supreme Court Justices and whichever way they deliver their verdict on the appeal, will have far-reaching impact on the future of democracy in Nigeria.
“The hope of most Nigerians is that the judiciary has the ultimate responsibility to rescue our democracy from the throes of death. Nigerians look forward to the Judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, to save this wobbling country from the abyss.”

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