By Emmanuella Ekele
The Presidential Election Petition Court has reserved judgement in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against the February 25 election victory of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The five-man panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, reserved judgement to a date to be communicated to the parties.
Atiku, Nigeria’s Vice-President between May 1999 and May 2007, was physically present in court today (Tuesday).
The petitioners — PDP and Atiku as well as Labour Party (LP) and its flag bearer, Peter Obi — are praying for the nullification of Tinubu’s victory in the February 25 poll.
They are both praying to be named the winner of the election, or that a rerun to be conducted.
In their final arguments, counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abubakar Mahmoud, said it would amount to absurdity for the Tribunal to accept the argument of Atiku that one must secure 25% votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to emerge winner of a presidential election.
Citing Section 134 of the Constitution, Mahmoud said the FCT has no special status.
He added that it would amount to absurdity for residents of the FCT to be deemed as being more special than other Nigerians elsewhere who voted during the keenly contested election.
On Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing portal (IREV), Mahmoud argued that the evidence before the court showed that all the information generated by the BVAS in relation to transmission of results were stored in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and it was the most secured and publicly available cloud service in the world.
He held that there was a test of vulnerability and application of the AWS.
He further held that INEC showed good intention to make the election credible as manifested by the evidence before the court.
Mahmoud submitted that the major plank of the petitioners’ case is non-compliance with the electoral act, regulations and guidelines.
On his part, the counsel for Tinubu and his vice, Kashim Shettima, Wole Olanikpekun, described the petitioners as meddlesome interloper.
He held that uploading of results to the IREV, either manually or electronically, played no role in the election process. He added that collation was physical and also manual.
Citing pages 10-11 of their address, he drew the attention of the court to the difference between transfer and transmit, the vertical, horizontal and the continuous use of the word or by the petitioner.
On the FCT, Olanikpekun held that the FCT is the 37th state in Nigeria for the purpose of the presidential election.
He added that the President won one quarter of the votes in two-third of the FCT.
On his part, counsel for the APC, Lateef Fagbemi, also prayed the court to dismiss the petition on the grounds that all the points raised in the petition has been ruled on by other court.
On the issue of 25% in Abuja, he said treating Abuja specially would be undue privilege, discrimination and elevation of a state, above others.
On the issue of election results, he noted that the petitioners did not prove that election did not hold in any area, neither did they prove that the results were proported as their witnesses did not disagree with the results of the election, as the only complain they had was the uploading of results.
On the issue of forfeiture, he noted that it was a civil forfeiture not a criminal one.
However, Atiku’s counsel, Chris Uche, said the issue of double nomination wasn’t raised.
On the issue of transmission, he added that there is a new regime in the Electoral Act and the essence of the innovation was to enhance transparency of collation and integrity of results declared.
He contended that INEC had a choice and option which they exercised.
Uche further added that RW 1 admitted results in the National Assembly election were transmitted but that of the presidential poll was not.
He further insisted that there was no technical glitch but a deliberate hitch to create room for manipulation.
He wondered why INEC said it was only four hours they had a delay, while their witness admitted that results were uploaded till March 1, 2023.
He pointed out that the burden shifts to INEC to explain the substantiality of the non-compliance.
He accused INEC of carrying out a total shutdown to create room for manipulation.
On the issue of FCT, he said they have sought to create an additional state. No one is endowed with the competence to add what has already been.
He urged the court to adopt the current trend and allow all the petitions which they clearly proved.
The five-man panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani subsequently reserved judgement to a date that will be communicated to the parties.
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