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Qualification: Again, Atiku, PDP Tell Tribunal to Disqualify Buhari

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar have again asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to disqualify President Muhammadu on the ground that he was not qualify to have contested the election.

They said the issue surrounding Buhari qualification falls under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the electoral Act, they therefore praying the tribunal discountenance APC argument that it is a pre election matter.

They said that it is not only a pre election matters as claimed by Buhari and All Progressive Congress (APC) in their replies to Abubakar Atiku and PDP petitions but a post election matters. They said that the issue of Buhari non qualification is a post election matter which the tribunal is vested with power to adjudicate upon and determined.

This is contained in PDP and Atiku reply to the preliminary objection raised by APC. The petitioners stated that “contrary to ( APC ) the 3 Respondent’s contention in paragraphs 1, 2, 3,4 and 5 of the Preliminary Objection, this Honourable Court is vested with the vires and jurisdiction to adjudicate on the Petitioners’ allegations as raised vide Grounds (D) and (E) in paragraph 15 of the Petition, as well as the related facts contained in paragraphs 384 to 409 of the petition, as these grounds do not fall within the purview of pre-election matters contemplated by section 285 (9) and (14) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (4th Alteration No 21) Act 2017. Second, that grounds 15(d) and (e) of the petition and indeed all the grounds of the Petition are covered by Sections 35 (1) and (2)and138 (1) (e) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and are therefore cognizable in an election Petition.

Third, that the issue of the qualification of (Buhari) the 2 Respondent to contest the presidential election under scrutiny, which is at the epic center of the Petitioners’ grounds (d) and (e)of paragraph 15 of the Petition is not only a pre-election matter but also a post-election matter within the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (as amended) as well as the Electoral Act,2010(as amended)and therefore competent and not statute- barred.

Fourth, The issue of non-qualification of Buhari the 2 Respondent is fundamental and can therefore not be waived as erroneously alleged by (APC) the 3rd Respondent. In reply to paragraph 6 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that the petition discloses reasonable cause of action capable of conferring this Honourable Court with jurisdiction to entertain same.

In answer to paragraph 7 of the preliminary objection objection, the petitioners aver that the paragraphs of the petition set out there in by (APC) the 3rd Respondent are not in any way generic, vague, un-referable(sic),non specific, nebulous, bogus, imprecise, speculative or at large.

Indeed the said paragraphs of the petition have stated clearly the facts of the election petition, the grounds on which the Petition is based and the reliefs sought by the petitioners in consonance with the dictates of paragraph 4(1)(d) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act,2010(as amended).

In further answer to paragraph 7 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that assuming without conceding that (APC) the 3rd Respondent is not clear as to the import of all or any of the paragraphs alleged to be vague, the 3rd Respondent is obliged to seek further and better particulars from the Petitioners, which they have failed to do , 2 3 can therefore not be heard to complain of vagueness. More so, when they have replied to the paragraph in question and others they challenged.

In answer to paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners state that all the allegations of non compliance in the petition have been tied to specific polling units, wards and local governments associated with the allegations.

In further answer to paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that particulars of polling units where irregularities, non-compliance and other infractions took place were supplied in the petition which ought to be read together and not in isolation as the 3rd Respondent has clearly done.

In answer to paragraphs 13, 14, and 15, of the preliminary objection alleging failure to join persons named in the paragraphs of the petition listed by the 3rd Respondent, the Petitioners contend that the individuals, officers, institutions and personages named in those paragraphs acted for and on behalf of (INEC) the 1st Respondent as agents, and/or on the authority of the 1st Respondent which is a named party in this Petition.

In answer to paragraphs 16 and 17 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that to the extent that the listed paragraphs deal with the question of the qualification of the 2nd Respondent to contest the presidential election, these paragraphs cannot be pigeon holed within the narrow confine of section 31(5) and (6) of the ElectoralAct, 2010 (as amended), since qualification is both a pre and post election matter.

In answer to paragraph 18 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that paragraph 15 (b) and (c) of the grounds of the petition as well as paragraphs 107 to 363 and 364 to 387 of the petition are proper, valid, and in no way hypothetical in that the reliefs sought in the petition are clearly tied to the paragraphs aforesaid and the entirety of the petition taken together, such that this Honourable Court has the jurisdiction to entertain the paragraphs and the grounds upon which they are based.

In answer to paragraph 19 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that paragraphs 389 and 390 of the petition are clear statements of facts tied to the provisions of the Electoral Act(supra), which in no way offend the rules of pleadings.

In answer to paragraph 20 of (APC) the 3rd Respondent’s preliminary objection alleging that the petition was not signed by a known individual and/or entity, the petitioners contend that the petition was indeed signed by a legal practitioner duly called to the Nigerian Bar in 1982 and licensed to practice as a Legal Practitioner in Nigeria.

He was Attorney General of Imo State (1994 – 1996) and was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in1999. The Petitioners also in response to paragraph 20 of the preliminary objection contend that the fact of the qualification of the petitioners’Lead Counsel to sign the petition is well-known to the 3rd Respondent’s team of lawyers and that the allegation of his purported non-qualification is in bad taste, malafide, highly tendentious, irritating, mischievous and most undeserving of any serious attention by the Honourable Court.

In further response to paragraph 20 of the preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that the petition having been duly signed by the petitioners and their Legal Practitioner who is enrolled in the Supreme Court of Nigeria is competent.

The said Legal practitioner is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria whose nomenclature or identity is not in doubt. In response to paragraph 21 of the 3rd Respondent’s preliminary objection, the petitioners contend that the petition before this Honourable Court is properly constituted having regard to the parties, the grounds therein, the reliefs sought and the facts pleaded and same is therefore competent and not liable to beings struck out. The petitioners state that the entirety of the 3rd Respondent’s objection is puerile, face-saving, vexatious, absolutely and completely unfounded.

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