Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nigerian Presidential Election Results Upheld by Supreme Court

President hails ruling, woos CPC’s supporters

Nigerian Guardian

THE Supreme Court has put a judicial seal of approval on President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory at the April 16, 2011 presidential polls.

In affirming Jonathan as the validly elected President, the aƄpex court yesterday dismissed the appeal by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) for failing to prove that its claims of non-compliance with the 2010 Electoral Act by the electoral umpire substantially affected the outcome of the polls.

Although the CPC was without its presidential candidate, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in the bid to nullify Jonathan’s victory following his pledge not to challenge the outcome in court, he however deplored the apex court’s ruling.

Buhari, in a swift reaction to the ruling, said the apex court toed the same path it followed in 2003 and 2007, when it gave similar judgments on his appeal against the victory of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his successor, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

He said all who witnessed the conduct of the 2011 elections would know that the Supreme Court’s decision was “politically motivated and has little judicial content.

“This Supreme Court has proved no better than the Supreme Courts of 2003 and 2007,” Buhari stated.

Buhari also called for a new order in governance. He particularly called for the abolishment of security votes, cut in recurrent expenditure, by reducing salaries and allowances of public officers.

Except for the estacodes of the Presidency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and medical emergencies, Buhari asked the government to slash those of other agencies and be transparent in the management of allocations to the armed forces and security agencies.

He added: “If all hands are on deck to help save our country from imminent collapse, we should stabilise. When that happens, Nigeria should take a close look at the country’s structure in a calm and unemotional atmosphere. Hopefully, we may come to a better form of government to see Nigeria through the next 50 years.”

President Jonathan, who also reacted to the judgment, welcomed the unanimous confirmation by the Supreme Court that he won the election.

In a statement yesterday, the President applauded the ruling by seven justices of the court, saying it was in line with the decision of the vast majority of Nigerians and political parties at the polling centres.

He also commended Buhari for availing himself of the country’s legal and judicial system in expressing his reservations about the conduct of the elections.

Now that the process has run its full course, Jonathan “hopes that General Buhari and his party will accept the ruling of the esteemed justices of the Supreme Court in good faith and join hands with him and other well-meaning Nigerians to build a united, stronger and prosperous nation that present and future generations of Nigerians can be proud of.”

The seven-man panel of the apex court in a unanimous decision held that the CPC failed in its appeal to show how its claims of non-compliance with the Electoral Act by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) substantially affected the outcome of the elections.

The court said although CPC’s case was built on claims of non-compliance with the Electoral Act and criminal allegations such as ballot box stuffing and sundry electoral malpractices, it abandoned the latter (criminal allegations) and focused on the former (non-compliance with the Electoral Act).

It noted that although the appellant tried to focus on pursuing the claim of non- compliance, it failed to establish how that shortcoming, which it held was not substantial, affected the result of the election. The justices further held that CPC did not prove its case beyond doubt that it had been shortchanged by any lapse from INEC in the conduct of the said polls.

The party also prayed the apex court to either void the election and order INEC to organise a re-run election between its candidate and that of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or in the alternative, remit the case-file to the tribunal and order the Appeal Court President to constitute a fresh panel to hear the appeal de-novo (afresh).

The respondents were INEC’s Chairman, Attahiru, Jega, the 36 states’ Resident Electoral Commissioners and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), President Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo and the PDP.

The lower tribunal did not only dismiss CPC’s petition, but also held that the electoral exercise was conducted in line with the provisions of both the 2010 Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended.

But dissatisfied with the verdict of the five-man tribunal presided over by Justice Kumai Bayaang Akaahs, CPC’s counsel, Mr. Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), told the Supreme Court that the tribunal wrongfully evaluated evidences that were adduced before it by witnesses the party called.

In the brief of argument it entered at the apex court registry on November 28, the CPC contended that the trial tribunal erred in law when it rejected documents required to prove multiple thumb-printing, non-distribution of electoral materials as well as occasioned miscarriage of justice by not ascertaining the actual number of required voters, the accredited number of voters and the actual number of voters that voted in the disputed election.

On the other hand, counsel to President Jonathan and Sambo, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal in its entirety, saying it grossly lacked in both substance and merit.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Dahiru Musdapher, presided over the panel that heard the appeal. The other justices on the panel are Mahmud Mohammed, Walter Onnoghen, John Afolabi Fabiyi, Olufunlola Adekeye, Bode Rhodes-Vivour and Sylvester Ngwuta.

Buhari, who recounted the previous “sins” of the Supreme Court, said: “In 2003, we presented a cast iron case before the Court of Appeal citing several major infringements of the Electoral Act 2002. In particular we subpoenaed INEC to furnish the court with proof of the ‘result’ they declared. They did not, because they could not. The court still declared the result as valid. Worse still, the Supreme Court upheld this dubious ruling of a dubious election.

“In 2007, I and my party, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) produced copious proof that the presidential election was rigged in the most blatant fashion. For one, ballot papers were distributed to polling stations on blank sheets of paper, making it impossible to carry out an audit trail. Second, during the process of tallying the result, the egregious Professor Maurice Iwu, then Chairman of INEC excused himself from the collation venue (after only 11 states and Abuja of the 36 states were tabulated) and announced the “result.” At the time he made this announcement, voting materials had not even fully arrived in some states. Only in Nigeria and only under a government like PDP’s would these criminalities pass the sanction of the judiciary. Yet on appeal, the Justice Idris Kutigi’s Supreme Court after a long adjournment declared the election valid, with three justices dissenting.”

On the 2011 elections, Buhari said the exercise was eclipsed in more depth and scope with forgery and rigging.

He did not spare INEC’s boss (Jega) of blame in the alleged fraud that characterised the election. Buhari said Jega, who was touted as competent and a man of integrity, proved neither and attributed the spontaneous violence that broke out in parts of the country after the announcement of the “result” to the way the polls were handled.

The CPC boss lamented that the country, which was on the brink of developing into the major continental power in 1999, is now a “fractured society, corruption everywhere, violence everywhere, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness nearly everywhere.”

He urged the National Assembly to give a lead in reducing their allowances substantially and stopping their foreign travels, adding that savings should be applied to education, infrastructure and agriculture with emphasis on youth employment.

The PDP, Senate President David Mark, and House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal yesterday described the ruling as a confirmation of the decisions of Nigerians at the polls.

The PDP said the ruling has again vindicated the position of most Nigerians on the sanctity of the general elections.

Mark said the judgment is a reflection of the wishes of the people of Nigeria. In a statement issued by his media adviser, Kola Ologbondiyan, Mark urged Jonathan and Sambo to dedicate themselves to the service of the country.

The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu enjoined Nigerians to support the Jonathan’s administration for speedy transformation of the country. Tambuwal said the judgment reaffirmed the decision Nigerians made by electing the President during last April‘s presidential election.

In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Imam Imam, Tambuwal urged the opposition, especially the CPC, to support the current administration to develop the country.

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