By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, on Monday reserved judgment in the Hope Democratic Party (HDP’s) petition challenging the conduct of the February 23rd presidential election which returned President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba, reserved judgment after parties in the petition had adopted their final written addresses.
The presidential candidate of the HDP, Chief Ambrose Owuru, and his party, HDP had on March 7 filed their petition seeking the nullification of President Buhari’s election on grounds that the conduct of the election on February 23 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was illegal, null and void.
They also asked the five man panel to declare them winner of the presidential poll having been elected president by 50 million Nigerians through a referendum conducted on February 16, 2019.
The petitioners in adopting their written address through their counsel, Chukwunoyerem Njoku, urged the tribunal to set aside the election of February 23rd on the grounds that INEC did not follow condition precedent in the Electoral Act before postponing the election earlier scheduled for February 16.
Njoku submitted that since INEC did not follow the condition precedent before postponing the election unconstitutionally, a referendum was conducted in line with the law and the 1st petitioner, Ambrose Owuru, emerged winner of the referendum with over fifty million votes.
According to the counsel, Nigerian citizens participated in the February 16, 2019 referendum as required by law.
He then urged the tribunal to nullify the declaration of president Buhari by INEC as president and in his place return Owuru as the authentic winner.
On his part, President Muhammadu Buhari represented by Wole Olanipekun SAN urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that it is frivolous, baseless and lacking in merit.
Olanipekun told the tribunal that the petitioners did not in any way adduce evidence on how the referredum was conducted and who conducted it in line with the provisions of the law.
The senior lawyer further told the tribunal that he had studied carefully the final address of the HDP and it’s presidential candidate and there was no where they made any case against president Muhammadu Buhari.
He therefore urged the tribunal to dismiss their petition for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Also asking for the dismissal of the petition is counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman SAN, who prayed for an award of substantial cost to serve as a deterrent to those who may which to file frivolous and baseless petitions in the 2023 elections.
Usman argued that the petition lacked merit because the electoral body conducted an election and not a referredum and that the claims of the two petitoners are strange to the electoral umpire.
He therefore urged the tribunal to uphold the declaration of President Buhari as winner of the February 23 lawful presidential election.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in its own final address argued by Chief Akin Olujimi SAN, similarly prayed for the dismissal of the petition on the grounds that it was wholely misconceived by the two petitoners.
After listening to all counsel in the matter, Justice Garba announced that judgment had been reserved to a date that would be communicated to parties.