ABUJA—The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed an application filed before it by the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, asking it to declare its candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, as the bona-fide winner of the April 16 presidential election.
The opposition party lost its bid to sack President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on a day a four-man panel of justices of the Appeal Court, led by Justice Mohammed Lawal Garuba, authorised the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, not to allow the petitioner to take copy of any of the ballot papers used in the conduct of the presidential poll.
The tribunal which clarified its position on an order made ab-initio by the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, on May 24, which compelled INEC to grant CPC and its forensic experts, access to all the biometric data pertaining to the presidential contest, yesterday, told the petitioner that the order was not an express permission for it to “take copies” of any of such electoral materials, noting however that it could only be allowed to inspect them.
The tribunal further held that it was legally absurd for the petitioner to beseech it to sack President Jonathan from office prior to the actual hearing of its substantive suit, stressing that entering judgment in default as prayed by CPC, would amount to injustice and abuse of the rights of the respondents to fair hearing.
Justice Garuba said: “This court must hear the matter on its merit. I therefore resolve the second issue against the petitioner and in the light of the above, the petitioner’s application lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed, I make no order as to cost,”
Tribunal orders parties
Consequent upon the dismissal of CPC’s interlocutory motion, yesterday, the tribunal ordered all the parties in the matter to appear before it tomorrow with a view to fashioning modalities for pre-hearing of the suit, especially as it relates to the number of witnesses they may wish to produce in court.
It will be recalled that PDP had earlier disclosed its determination to call 103 witnesses at the tribunal with a view to proving that CPC sponsored several under-aged voters in the Northern region of the country, who it said exercised illegal franchise in favour of Buhari.
Though CPC is yet to declare the number of witnesses it intend to call against President Jonathan and PDP, it had specifically secured the nod of the suspended PCA, Salami, for its forensic experts to have access to the Biometric data base of all the registered voters in Nigeria for the purpose of cross-checking finger-prints on the face of the ballot papers cast in states, local governments, wards and polling units across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Though the order was granted, the respondents raised vehement objections against it, insisting that it would amount to a breach of the constitutional rights of the electorate that voted during the presidential election.
CPC had in its motion on notice filed pursuant to paragraphs 18 (11) of the 1st schedule of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, and Section 149 (D) of the Evidence Act, alleged that INEC was conniving with PDP in order to frustrate its petition.
The petitioner had maintained that it was the said clandestine relationship that manifested in the refusal of the electoral body to grant its forensic experts access to any of the materials used in the conduct of the presidential election, despite that the tribunal had on May 24 ordered INEC to do so.
It, therefore, pleaded the panel hitherto led by Justice Salami to enter judgment in its favour, a request that was still pending before the PCA was ousted from office.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Rotimi Fashakin, CPC said it was not surprised by the decision given recent happenings in the judiciary, which “showed nauseous compromises in the nation’s judiciary.”
According to CPC’s statement, “Undoubtedly, today’s ruling has further exacerbated the feelings of anguish and angst from the citizenry occasioned by the unprecedented vitiation of the rule of Law, ably spearheaded by the top echelons of the nation’s judiciary in recent times. The obviously convoluted ruling ominously left many questions unanswered:
“Is it possible for the petitioner to reinforce its petition in the court without submitting copies of the anomalies (if any) discovered in the course of its inspection?
”Was the court’s ruling of September 6, 2011 not contradictory to the unambiguous order of May 24, 2011?
”Was the court ruling not at variance with the provision of the Electoral Act Section 77(1)? Can an inspection be done without the follow-up action of taking copies for more perspicacious analysis of ascertaining valid votes?
“Was it not a colossal waste of the nation’s resources for N87billion to be spent on preparing a database that would not be used to facilitate the growth of the nation’s electoral process?
Does this not clearly show the trepidation of the citizenry with the interests shown in reviewing the membership of the tribunal?
”Was this the judicial seal of approval on the Electoral infamy of April 2011?
Was this the Judicial aspect of the spirited move to truncate the action to truly ascertain the truism of the much-touted electoral freeness, fairness and credibility of April 2011?
Should this be that Justice has been done, seeing that the essence of the judicial process is Justice?
In the making of this hoax, there are obvious chasms in the Nation’s ailing psyche. It is our hope that the Nation shall return to the path of Constitutional democracy. With the way things are, it is obvious that Justice remains unattainable for the oppressed even in the Courts!