“Declare me winner” Nigeria’s Atiku tells court

Lining up about 400 witnesses Abubakar said he has enough evidence that would lead to the election being upturned
A bus decorated with campaign posters bearing images of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party election candidate Atiku Abubakar and his running mate Peter Obi stands on a road in Abuja on February 19, 2019, ahead of the re-scheduled general election. (Photo by Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP)

Atiku Abubakar, runner up in Nigeria’s February 23 presidential polls has asked the courts to declare him winner of the election or order a rerun, his lawyers told journalists after filing a case on his behalf, late Monday. 

Lining up about 400 witnesses and 20 senior lawyers, Abubakar who is popularly known by his first name Atiku, said he has enough evidence that would lead to the election being upturned by judges hearing the petition.

“We asked that our candidate who won the election massively across the country be declared the winner. In the alternative, we also asked that the election be set aside on the ground of irregularity which was apparent across the country.” Emmanuel Enoidem, Legal Advisor for the Peoples Democratic Party, said after filing the petition on behalf of the party and its candidate, Atiku. 

Atiku and the PDP rushed to file the petition just one day to the deadline and 20 clear days after the electoral commission’s declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner on February 27 in Abuja. This is to beat Nigeria’s electoral act which provides a deadline of 21 days for any aggrieved party or candidate to file a petition arising from the announcement of results of an election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, or state electoral commissions.
“We have also lined up more than 400 witnesses that are going to testify in this petition. Nigerians are at home with what happened on February 23, the sham they called election. We are going to re-present those facts to Nigerians, we are not going to manufacture facts,” Enoidem said. 

A member of Atiku’s legal team, Mike Ozekhome, said the petition was watertight and that the presumed victory of the ruling All Progressives Congress and its candidate, will be set aside by the courts. 

“Our petition is quite solid, very strong and unassailable. We believe that by the grace of God, the original winner will regain his mandate.”

The three-man Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which seats at the Court of Appeal building in Abuja, is headed by Justice Abdul Aboki. 

Aboki recently ruled in favour of Atiku and Buhari, granting them rights to inspect ballot papers, voters register and other election materials in custody of the electoral commission, which were used in conducting the presidential election. 

“That INEC shall forthwith allow the applicants either by themselves or their agents, servants or representatives have access to and inspect, as well as obtain Certified True Copies for the purpose of defending any election petition arising from his declaration by INEC as the winner/returned candidate at the presidential election held on 23rd February, 2019 of all polling documents, forms, electoral materials in the custody or possession of INEC,” Aboki ruled while granting the request of Buhari’s legal team last Friday.

The judge had earlier rejected the opposition’s request for a forensic observation of all election materials stating that granting such prayers would be in conflict with electoral laws.

With the formal filing of the petition, the election tribunal, in line with Nigeria’s electoral laws, must deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date the petition was filed by the opposition party and its candidate.

Many opinion leaders across Nigeria have been appealing to Atiku and the PDP to drop the case in line with the peace accord signed by all presidential candidates before the polls. But the opposition candidate has called the bluff of such leaders, insisting that it is in the interest of Nigerians who voted for the outcome of the polls to be tested in court. 


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