STAR RULING: Election Tribunal Rules for Obasanjo, but Cancels Ogun Presidential Poll Results in 2003 Presidential Elections in Nigeria!

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STAR RULING: ELECTION TRIBUNAL RULES FOR OBASANJO, BUT CANCELS OGUN PRESIDENTIAL POLL RESULTS IN 2003 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA !


For some background, see:

FROM THE ARCHIVES: STAR QUESTION: What Happened in Ogun Polls ?
Mobolaji E. Aluko [April 24, 2003]

 


Vanguard

 

Court dismisses Buhari’s petition, voids polls in Ogun

By Ise-Oluwa Ige
Tuesday, December 21, 2004

 

ABUJA— In a split judgment of three to one, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed the petition by former Head of State, Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari, challenging the victory of President Olusegun Obasanjo in the presidential election of April 19, 2003.
But the court unanimously annulled the election results declared in Ogun State, the president’s home state.

The court cited various reasons for its decision including that members of a certain ethnic group were prevented from voting and were denied their right to vote at the election; that there was corrupt practice of distribution of money at the election; that there was intimidation by military and police presence, and that the result announced for the state did not emanate from the due electoral process in the state became bias.

In the result declared by INEC in the state, President Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy got 1,360,170 while all the governorship candidates who contested election in the state, the same day and the same time received 747,296 votes altogether.

By sheer calculation, the presidential candidate received 615,873 over and above all the votes cast for all the governorship candidates.
The Justices of the Appeal Court who unanimously queried the yawning gap between votes recorded for President Obasanjo and those assigned for all gubernatorial candidates in the state said it was indefensible especially when both the presidential and gubernatorial elections were held simultaneously.

In the exact words of Justice F F Tabai who read the lead judgment, he said “all allegations in Ogun State were criminal in nature. They ranged from violence, fingerprinting, official intimidation, bias and falsification of results.”

The three Justices of the Appeal Court who dismissed the petition by former Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Buhari are Justices F F Tabai who read the lead judgment, Umaru Abdullahi and Mahmoud Mohammed.
Although the three justices of the court held that there was no compliance with the electoral laws including certification of election materials, subscribing to oaths of impartiality among others, yet they disagreed that such reason was compelling enough to annul the entire presidential election.

For instance, Justice Tabai said: “The omission of officers to subscribe to the oath as stipulated by the electoral law does not affect the validity of the election. The penalty attached can only be borne by the officers who are supposed to take the oath. I find that the omission on their part should not prevent innocent Nigerians from their constitutional rights to vote
“I do not agree either that because election in one state of the federation is nullified, the election in the whole of the federation should be nullified.

The petition is, therefore, dismissed and N5,000 cost is awarded in favour of every set of the respondents.
But a minority judgment of the court read by Justice S A Nsofor annulled the April 19, 2003 presidential election conducted nationwide in its entirety on the grounds that the election was invalid by reason of non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, especially section 134 (1) (b).

For instance, he said there was no certification of INEC’s sensitive materials before they were distributed for use for the election; that some PDP members were used as resident electoral commissioners by INEC deliberately among others.

Also cited as some of his reasons informing his verdict was the announcement by INEC that Nigerians should disregard thumb-printing for fingerprinting contrary to what the electoral law said and various allegations of violence and malpractices in some of the states including Adamawa and Benue among others.

His words: “I find that the substantial non compliance with the mandatory electoral law amounts to no election. I also find that there was violence perpetrated by President Olusegun Obasanjo and the INEC. In Adamawa State, for instance, there was massive rigging, malpractice and violence using law enforcement agencies.

“The deployment of the soldiers and police was to intimidate innocent electorate as alleged by the petitioners (Maj.-Gen.Buhari and ANPP). If not, why is it that no PDP member was killed or shot? Six innocent Nigerians were shot dead in police station. Others were wounded. All were ANPP members.

“Why is it that the law enforcement agencies turned their eyes from the various atrocities inflicted on innocent Nigerians by the army and the police? Why is it that there was no arrest or investigation of any sort of those atrocities? Why is it that INEC did nothing and said nothing about it too?

“The deployment of military and the police who killed several innocent Nigerians desirous to excercise their voting rights was unconstitutional. I accepted the petitioners’ unchallenged evidence and I find that there was violence perpetrated by President Obasanjo and INEC. The presidential election could not have been conducted under this situation to qualify this election as free and fair. Democracy and insecurity can never be bedfellows.

“In my opinion, therefore, there was no presidential election conducted in these states where there were violence. Having said that, it is sufficient to say that enough has been said to make me stop on whether the mandatory electoral laws were complied with in the conduct of the election in the 14 states of the Federation which I had considered one after the other.

“Section 134 (2) (b) requires no interpretation. 23 is 23. Simple. No more, no less. It is 24 states of the 36 states of the Federation. The question now is: did President Olusegun Obasanjo secure at least 25 per cent of votes in the 23 of the last presidential election? The answer is no. If the presidential elections in the 14 states of the Federation were said to have been vitiated, then he could not have been said to have secured 23 because the remaining states of the federation minus the 14 states are less than 24 states.

“The petitioner shall, therefore, be entitled to the reliefs sought. For all these, this petition ought to succeed and it succeeds accordingly

“May Nigeria never and never again see a black Saturday like April 19, 2003. The presidential election is hereby nullified by me. I award a cost of N1.5 million against the first set of respondents (President Obasanjo and his vice, Alhaji Atuiku Abubakar) and a cost of N3.5million against the second sets of respondents.

Immediately after the dissent judgment was concluded at exactly 6.24pm, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) who represented President Obasanjo and his vice in the case stood up and addressed the court for few minutes.

Said he: “I want to say thank you very much for your industry and patience. We are practising democracy in this country. That is why there is opportunity for minority to be heard. But the majority must always have its way. The majority is always the judgment of the court. It nullifies the minority judgment. It has no effect on the majority judgment. We cannot even appeal against the minority judgment. If we can, I know what to do. Whatever anybody wants to do with the majority judgment, we are ready for it.”

Immediately he sat down, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) who prosecuted the petition on behalf of Gen Buhari and his party said: “It is very gratifying that we have come to the end of this long trial. We have all participated in this trial. All of us here are part of history. We are very grateful for the opportunity given to us to complain. We have not been inhibited in any manner to lodge our complaint.

In considering the judgment, we do not have any complaint about it. We thank Justice Nsofor for the courage to dissent. We wish democracy to thrive in Nigeria because without it, we will go nowhere. It is true that the minority judgment has nothing to do with the majority judgment but we hope that the political class will not create a situation that will make people engage in a long tortuous litigation like this in future.

“Although I have lost but I am satisfied. I have done petitions for governors before. In the course of prosecuting it, most of them would stay at home. But this my client is exceptional. He is always here. I want to specially appreciate him.”

Shortly after the court rose, Maj.-Gen Buhari who was massed by his supporters did not say anything except that he would address a press conference 11.00 a.m. today.

But Yobe State governor, Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim, who was among several dignitaries present in court hinted that the judgment of the court would be appealed.

Chief Mike Ahamba who had earlier said that he was satisfied with the judgment also told newsmen that if his client asked him to go on appeal, he would have no option.

It would be recalled that General Buhari filed a petition before the Court of Appeal, Abuja. The petition spanned 93 pages, containing 294 paragraphs and several sub-paragraphs.

The trio of Buhari, Okadigbo (now late) and the ANPP sued President Obasanjo, his vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, INEC which statutorily conducted the election and 265 others.

The 265 others include all resident electoral commissioners of 36 states of the Federation, all state returning officers at presidential elections of the 36 states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory, electoral officers of virtually all local governments from Imo, Taraba and Adamawa.

President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have polled 24, 456,140 votes to beat 19 others that contested with him at the election.
Maj-Gen Buhari who is challenging the presidential election results declared by INEC was said to have polled 12, 710,022, while Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu polled 1,297,445 and Yusuf Muhammadu Dikko polling 21,403. Chief Gani Fawehinmi was also said to have scored 161, 333 among other results announced by the INEC.

Virtually all the presidential candidates that vied for the coveted post rejected the results with some of them challenging it at the law court. Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu’s petition had been determined by the Supreme Court. It was thrown out in its entirety.
Alhaji Yusuf Muhammadu Dikko’s case is still pending before the Appeal Court.

 


 
The Punch, Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Opposition in fresh attack … as court cancels Obasanjo’s votes in Ogun • NBA, others speak • INEC awaits judgment 

Tobi Soniyi, Gbade Ogunwale, Tony Amokeodo and Musikilu Mojeed

Opposition parties on Monday fixed a strategy meeting for January 6, 2005, following an Appeal Court judgment nullifying the results of the 2003 presidential election in Ogun State.

National Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said the meeting would consider the implications of the verdict and other related issues, including the Electoral Bill 2004.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja nullified the results of the presidential election in Ogun State, but held that they were not enough to invalidate the overall outcome of the poll.

According to returns by the Independent National Electoral Commission, 1.3million votes were recorded for President Olusegun Obasanjo in Ogun for the 2003 poll.

The court also dismissed the petition by the All Nigeria Peoples Party presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.

The historic judgment pitched three justices of the court against one.

Justice Francis Tabai, who read the leading judgment, held that the failure of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission to take oath before conducting the poll did not invalidate the exercise as argued by Buhari.

The judgment lasted five and a half hours, as each justice took turns to read his judgment. The justices sat at 1 pm and rose at 6.30 pm.

Two other justices who agreed that President Olusegun Obasanjo won the election were the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umar Abdullahi, and Justice Mahmud Mohammed.

On the grounds for nullifying the election results in Ogun State, Justice Tabai said, “If the petitioner should score 1,537 from 146 polling units, is there any reason why he should score less in 3,270 units?

“It is clear that the result was manipulated. If it is manipulated, it is not for us to correct it here.

“It is manipulated, the result in the state is cancelled.

“But I do not agree that because the election in one state is nullified, the election in the whole country should be nullified.

“My suggestion is that we have seen all that the petitioner has put in this petition, as contained in his briefs.

“Because of presumption of irregularities, it is almost near impossible to prove an election petition unless the Electoral Act is amended.

“On the whole, the petition is hereby dismissed.”

He also reacted to the allegation that military personnel were used to intimidate voters and ANPP’s supporters.

The Justice said, “The scenario created from the various incidents was that some persons were in this country in the name of politics, and also, licensed to destroy lives and property.

“This is a serious threat to our democracy and democratic ideal.”

In his dissenting judgment, Justice Sylvester Nsofor held that the refusal of INEC to produce in court the certified true copy of election results showed that the results were falsified.

He said, “Had INEC obeyed the court order, the statement of results would have conclusively shown as alleged by the petitioner that the scores were assigned.

“So I hold that the petition on this one ground succeeded and rendered the presidential election conducted by INEC on April 19, 2003 a nullity.

“Consequently, the election stands annulled.”

The justice said he was convinced that ANPP agents were not given opportunity to certify election materials as required by the law.

He added, “There was a purported election on 19/04/03 that was not what Nigerians would want and deserve.”

He held that there was no compliance with sections 63 and 67 of the Electoral Act. “This rendered the election a farce, pure and simple. “It means there was no election,” he ruled.

The opposition parties under the auspices of CNPP described the judgment as a vindication of their long-standing argument that injustice was perpetuated in the poll.

INEC, which conducted the election and declared a winner on its basis, declined comment on Monday when contacted by our correspondent. The Director of Publicity, INEC, Mr. Steve Osemeke, said that the commission was awaiting the judgment and would respond after studying its content.

But two senior advocates, Prof. Itse Sagay and Chief Bayo Ojo, described the verdict as a moral burden on President Obasanjo. They spoke in separate interviews in Lagos.

Speaking to our correspondents on phone, Musa said, “We are at last glad that we have been vindicated that injustice was done to other parties in the last election. In other climes, the President would have by now relinquished office voluntarily. But since Obasanjo won’t do so voluntarily, we are asking him to quit now.”

He said the CNPP would take a decision on its next line of action after the January 6 meeting.

Sagay said the Appeal Court judgment dealt a devastating blow to the moral crusade being championed by Obasanjo.

He argued, “This development, no doubt, has an effect on the moral crusade of Mr. President, which he keeps referring to at any occasion of national importance.

“Unfortunately, Mr. President has just raised a moral issue in the Anambra saga, following the face-off between Governor Chris Ngige and his estranged political godfather, Chris Uba.

“I think what the judgment means is that the President should admit that he lacks the moral right to criticise others when an election that gave him the mandate was said to be full of irregularities in some local government areas in his home state.”

Sagay also called for the resignation of the Chairman of INEC, Dr. Abel Guobadia.

He said, “Guobadia should resign now. This is because he presided over a commission that announced rigged elections and awarded election certificates in dubious manners. The evidence of rigging throughout the country is overwhelming.

“Some of the claims of international observers are now being confirmed by the appellate court.”

In his own comment, Ojo commended the ruling of the appellate court, saying that the judiciary had once again lived up to expectation.

The Senior Advocate, who is the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, said, “I am happy about the judgment of the Court of Appeal on the 2003 presidential election.

“The Court of Appeal judgment is a victory for the rule of law and democracy. It shows that if given the opportunity, the Nigerian judiciary can hold its own anytime.

“The judgment has shown that there is no alternative to the rule of law. Whatever we do, the court is there as an arbiter. And the appellate court has demonstrated that the court is the last hope of common man.”
 


 

This Day

 

Presidential Election: Despite Ogun, Obasanjo Wins
Poll a farce – Minority judgement

From Lillian Okenwa in Abuja, 12.21.2004

The Presidential Election Tribunal sitting at the Court of Appeal Abuja yesterday dismissed the petition filed by the All Nigeria People’s Party’s (ANPP) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in which he was challenging the re-election of President Olusegun Obasanjo in the April 19, 2003 elections.
The court in a three to one verdict said though there are allegations of wide spread irregularities, the petitioners have not been able to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. One judge, however, disagreed with his colleagues.
Justice Francis Tabai who delivered the lead judgment with the assent of Justice Umaru F. Abdullahi and Mahmud Muhammad in the petition described as the longest in the history of election petition in Nigeria however nullified the election in Ogun state.
Justice Sylvester Nsofor who read the dissenting minority judgment described the presidential election as a farce while maintaining that there is enough reason to nullify the entire thing.
The Court in its majority judgment held: “Results in Ogun state stand cancelled. Petitioners maintained the figure in the result were repugnant. That is the 1st respondent’s (Obasanjo) 930,000 votes more than the votes cast and the 632,000 votes for the governor. There is evidence of internal manipulation of figures in favour of PDP as given in evidence by Chief Bisi Lawal, ANPP’s gubernatorial candidate in the state.”
“If the petitioner should score 1,537 votes from 146 polling units, is there any reason why he should score less in 3,270 polling units? It is clear that the results were manipulated.
“I do not agree that because the election in one state of the federation is nullified, the whole election should be nullified. My own suggestion is that we have seen the petition; we have seen all that petitioners put in this petition. The number of briefs because of this presumption of these irregularities. It is almost near impossible to prove an election petition unless the Electoral Act is amended,” he added.
Justice Tabai also said there are a number of local governments and wards in other states where elections have been cancelled.
Speaking on the allegation that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) breached section 18 of the Electoral Act 2002 by not swearing to an oath of allegiance, Tabai cited a related judgment of the Supreme Court and said: “Failure to take oath is in my view not sufficient to stop Nigerians from exercising their right to cast vote.”
He also observed that since Nigerians cast their votes INEC’s failure to administer the necessary oath of allegiance and neutrality on the officials who conducted the election is not enough to nullify the election.
On failure to certify electoral documents prior to use at INEC offices by party agents, he said polling agents are the ones to certify materials and at the polling units in ward distribution and collation centers “and hence have no business at the INEC office.”
Asserting that the petitioners misconstrued the principles of proving the issue of non-compliance with the Electoral Act beyond reasonable doubt on an election petition of this nature, he said there was no complaint against the conduct of elections by Gidado Abubakar, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Gombe State.
“Whether or not the onus shifts to a respondent to prove allegation of non-compliance did not affect the result,” he said.
On wide spread violence and killings, he said: “Instances of the brutal killings were numerous with the most important part being it happened in the presence of policemen or were reported and never investigated. This trend is a serious treath to our democratic ideals as it poses a serious case of having license to kill.”
“The court has no choice but to accept the petitioner’s allegation of widespread violence but according to the principles of presumption of irregularities in the absence of evidence in the 24 states, the court resolves in favour of the 24 states. Also the nullification of elections in 36 states under section 34(1) of the Constitution will amount to absurdity. I do not agree that elections in the entire country should be nullified simply because the election result of one state is nullified unless the Electoral Act is amended. On the whole, the petition is dismissed and a cost of N5, 000 be paid to each of the respondents.”
Elections were also canceled in some local government areas among which is Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State due to proper proof of evidence, the court said.
In his supporting judgment, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, President, Court of Appeal said the refusal of INEC to comply with the court’s order to produce the certified true copy of election results for the purpose of the determination of the petition in court “is condemned by me as an act of recklessness. It does not appear to me to be the right approach to an issue by a body which claims itself to be an independent body.”
He, however, said the petitioner ought to have proved beyond reasonable doubt that the irregularities substantially affected the outcome of the elections to such an extent as to have affected majority of the votes cast. This, he said, can be proved by producing the correct results alongside the wrong ones.
“The absence of this did not give the court enough grounds to accept the allegation by the petitioners to annul the end results declared,” he said.
Abdullahi pointed out that since electoral officers who took part in the election were not joined as respondents in the case, “based on the principle of fair hearing, it will be difficult to annul election results because of the lack of compliance by a public officer who was not even joined as a respondent in the case.”
He condemned the intolerant nature of the political class and advised “the right thing to be done when it comes to electoral process in this country is enjoin electoral officers to display high level of transparency in the discharge of their duties.”
Justice Nsofor in his dissenting judgment acknowledged that there was widespread irregularities in which case the entire April 2003 election should be cancelled.”
He said based on the failure of INEC to obey the court order to produce the certified true copy of election results for the purpose of determination of this petition, the appeal succeeds.
“Had INEC obeyed the court order, the statement of the results would have conclusively shown as alleged by the petitioners that the scores of the candidates were assigned. So I hold that the petition on this one ground alone succeeded and rendered the entire election by INEC on April 19th, 2003 no election. Consequently, the election stands annulled.”
He said he was convinced that ANPP agents were not given opportunity to certify election materials as required by law.
“There was a purported election on April 19th 2003. That was not what Nigerians want and deserves to have. All I’m striving to say is that there was no compliance with section 63 and 67 of the Electoral Act and this rendered the Presidential election of April 19th, 2003 a farce, pure and simple. So it means there was no election,” Nsofor said.
The petition, was first mentioned on May 23, 2003. Described as the longest in the history of election petition in Nigeria, a total of 365 witnesses appeared while 311 exhibits were taken.
Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) counsel to Obasanjo told the court that ANPP did not tender election results which they alleged were falsified to show that they were either lawful or not and that the allegation of corruption and criminal conduct has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“Allegation of 100% voting, wide spread violence, executive violence, stuffing of ballot boxes, over voting are all allegations involving crime and which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“All this argument fails because the petitioner failed to join the electoral officers involved. The allegations are not enough to void a national election. They failed to show the effect of the alleged non-compliance or corrupt practices on the total election,” said Babalola.
In his concluding address, Buhari’s counsel, Mike Ahamba (SAN), said he has discharged the onus placed on his side by law to warrant the success of the petition and to invalidate the return of Obasanjo and Vice- President Atiku Abubakar.
The ANPP presidential flag bearer who reiterated that Obasanjo and his team employed undue influence on the armed forces, law enforcement agents as well as INEC to win the election added that they also flouted a substantial part of the Electoral Act 2002.
“The 1st and 2nd respondents (Obasanjo and Atiku) being guilty of undue influence, a case of corrupt practice has by virtue of the provisions of Section 129 of the Electoral Act, been established against the two respondents.
“With a substantial number of states invalidated either by concession by INEC or by proof of fundamental non-compliance, the 1st respondent is not capable of meeting the requirements of Section 134(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution to qualify for a return assuming without conceding that the election was generally conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Acct.”
Meanwhile, there was tight security as all roads to the court was blocked by policemen and plain clothe security men under the direction of the Commissioner of Police in charge Federal Operations, Mr. Lawrence Alobi.
In court were also the PDP Board of Trustee Chairman, Chief Anthony Anenih, Governor of Nasarawa State, Adamu Abdullahi, General Buhari, Sule Hamma, Buba Galadima, Chairman of ANPP, Don Etiebet, the deputy National Chairman, Jerry useni, PDP National Secretary, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, PDP National Auditor, Barrister Ray Nnaji, APGA Chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie among others.
The brief further states: “The petitioners have made out a case of substantial non-compliance with fundamental provisions of the Electoral Act, particularly:
•Failure to certify electoral documents prior to use, which, as conceded by the pleadings of 1st and 2nd Respondents are necessary to render the election authentic;
•Employment by the 1st Respondent of Resident Electoral Commissioners who are members of the 1st Respondent’s party, the PDP;
•Failure to administer the necessary Oath of allegiance and neutrality on the officials who conducted the election;
•Failure by the 3rd Respondent and the 4th Respondent (INEC and INEC Chairman) to hold a collation of results from the states before announcing any final result;
•Deployment of armed men during the election as conceded in the 1st Respondent’s reply; and inter alia;
•Corporate manifestations of bias by INEC.

 


 

Guardian

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Tribunal upholds Obasanjo’s re-election
Voids presidential polls results in Ogun

*Justices in 3-1 verdict

*Buhari declines comment

*CNPP faults judgment

From Mohammed Abubakar,
Abuja

THE Appeal Tribunal on the 2003 presidential elections yesterday in Abuja upheld the re-election of President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was a split decision with three of the justices endorsing Obasanjo’s re-election while one declared it void.
Justice Felix Tabai, read the lead report which was endorsed by two of his colleagues, Justices Umaru Farouk Abdullahi and Mohammed Mahmud.

But Justice Sylvester Nsofor dissented, voiding the entire results, which he described as massively rigged.

Remarkably, all the justices annulled the presidential polls in Ogun State where a discrepancy of about 6,000 votes for Obasanjo was discovered against the results for the governorship candidate of the president’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Gbenga Daniel.

The suit was filed by Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the flagbearer of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) for the election. Buhari, who was at the tribunal yesterday, declined comments on the judgment.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had on July 22, last year thrown out a petition filed by Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) against the election results.

But the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) yesterday described the judgment as skewed. A statement by its Secretary General, Maxi Okwu, said that the tribunal had now proved that election petition in the country is “mission impossible.”
Gen. Buhari on June 6, 2003 filed a lawsuit at the apex court, seeking to annul the May 29 inauguration of President Obasanjo. He also asked the court to overturn the May 27 decision of the Court of Appeal, which sanctioned the inauguration.

Buhari had filed an election petition at the Court of Appeal on May 20, in which he requested the nullification of the April 19 presidential elections and the conduction of fresh elections. In another suit filed May 22 last year, Buhari argued that the inauguration should be stopped pending the determination of the petition he filed on May 20.

The Court of Appeal on May 27, 2003 dismissed the application for an injunction to halt the May 29 presidential inauguration ceremony. In his ruling, Justice Abdullah Umaru, President of the Appeal Court, said such an injunction, if granted, would create a constitutional leadership vacuum in the country.

Although Justice Umaru declined Buhari’s request to stop the inauguration, he added that the Court of Appeal would proceed with his election petition in spite of Obasanjo’s swearing-in on May 29. It would be ill-advised, the Justice further pointed out, for the inauguration to be cancelled after elaborate arrangements had already been made to carry it out.

Also, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on July 22, 2003 ruled against a petition filed by Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu seeking to nullify Obasanjo’s victory.

The APGA candidate had asked the court to rule that the appointment of Obasanjo to the office of head of state in 1976 was done through an election.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), argued that having ruled as a military head of state from 1976 to 1979 as well as winning a presidential election in 1999, the constitution forbids Obasanjo to contest presidential elections for the third time running.

Ahamba, therefore, urged the court to quash the president’s April 2003 election victory on the ground that Obasanjo’s selection as a military head of state in 1976 was done through an election conducted among members of the Supreme Military Council.

He concluded that the president’s campaign in the 2003 elections was the third time he ran for the same office, in violation of the two-term provision of the 1999 Constitution. APGA and Odumegwu-Ojukwu also claimed that the election process was marred by irregularities and urged the Appeal Judges to cancel the election results as a consequence.

The President’s lawyer, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), countered these claims by arguing that the emergence of Obasanjo as head of state was a military, rather than a democratic arrangement.

He said General Obasanjo’s selection followed a military succession plan to fill the leadership vacuum created by the assassination of former Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed.

Babalola had argued that this arrangement, brought about by the votes of the military high command at the then Supreme Military Council (SNC), could not be interpreted as a democratic election, in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

A former member of the defunct SMC and one-time Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Yusuf, gave evidence to the court and corroborated most of Chief Babalola’s submissions. Yusuf, himself the presidential candidate of the Movement for Democratic Justice at the same elections, told the judges that if Obasanjo had declined the invitation to serve after the death of General Mohammed, it would have been regarded as an act of treason by his colleagues.

He also said that Obasanjo’s selection as head of state conformed to military tradition.

The Appeal Court judges, led by Justice Ayo Salami, agreed with Babalola, and ruled that the first coming of Obasanjo as head of state was a military affair that could not be regarded as an election.

But, noting the controversial result in the Ogun State election, which saw President Obasanjo having about 600,000 more votes than the PDP’s governorship candidate, Gbenga Daniel, the CNPP yesterday said that the Court of Appeal judgment was an affirmation of electoral fraud.

The coalition said: “It was clear that a decision on a petition that took place over 20 months ago could not but be otherwise.”
The CNPP added: “In this case, the deck was totally skewed against the petitioner. The respondent, all along, continued to enjoy and abuse his incumbency. Justice has been delayed and definitely denied.”
Okwu said that the CNPP would soon meet to fully digest the judgment and its implications, adding that a review of the tactics and strategies was in the works.

The CNPP pledged to publish its study to show that election petitions in the country were waste of time.

“For now, OBJ must live with the heavy moral burden of the electoral magic in Ogun State, which to us is a paradigm of the entire charade called 2003 general elections,” it added.

 


 

December 20, 2004

Tribunal Upholds Nigeria President’s Win

By MOHAMMED BASHIR, Associated Press Writer

ABUJA, Nigeria – A tribunal on Monday upheld President Olusegun Obasanjo’s victory last year in Nigeria’s first-ever civilian-run election, saying some balloting fraud had occurred but that the graft did not change the outcome of the vote.

A bloc of 20 opposition parties challenged the April 19, 2003 balloting in a court case, arguing the vote that saw Obasanjo re-elected should be invalidated for “corrupt practices.”

The tribunal canceled results in Obasanjo’s home state of Ogun — where votes counted exceeded registered voters — but affirmed Obasanjo’s nationwide victory.

“I don’t agree that because the election in one state is nullified, the election in the whole country should be nullified,” Judge Francis Tabai said, presenting the 3-1 verdict. “On the whole, the petition is hereby dismissed.”

Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation, has 36 states.

Obasanjo’s 1999 election to a first four-year term in elections arranged by a junta ended 15 years of brutal military rule. The 2003 election stood as the first civilian-run vote since Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. All previous ones were quickly blocked by military takeovers in the West African country.

International observers reported many examples of fraud in 2003, but did not question the victory of Obasanjo, a 66-year-old Christian from southern Nigeria, over rival Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north. Both men were former junta leaders.

Up to three dozen people were killed in scattered violence around voting time, but the election was still hailed by many as a firm step toward strengthened democracy in Nigeria.

 


 

Nigerian Court Upholds Obasanjo Election Victory

Mon Dec 20,11:33 AM ET

By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA (Reuters) – A Nigerian court on Monday rejected a legal challenge by the country’s main opposition leader against the landslide victory of President Olusegun Obasanjo in last year’s presidential elections.

The Court of Appeal, which has a mandate to act as the presidential election tribunal, said former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari had failed to prove his case.

Buhari had pushed for the poll to be annulled due to what he said was significant vote rigging in at least 16 states, including Anambra.

Presiding Justice Francis Tabai annulled the result of polls in Obasanjo’s southwestern home state of Ogun saying they were heavily manipulated but added there was not enough evidence of rigging elsewhere to warrant an annulment of the election.

“I do not agree that because the election in one of the states is nullified, then the election in the whole country should be nullified,” he said in the lead judgment.

“On the whole the petition is hereby dismissed,” he added.

The ruling comes days after Obasanjo himself put into doubt the legitimacy of the 2003 election which kept his party in power, in a fiercely written riposte to an unprecedented attack by the chairman of his People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Audu Ogbeh.

Obasanjo wrote he was shocked to learn that the Anambra state governor Chris Ngige had admitted to his former patron Chris Uba that he had not won the election cleanly, and criticized Ogbeh for trying to avoid his share of the blame for the crisis.

The Anambra crisis reflects poorly on Obasanjo because he withdrew police protection from Ngige — who is locked in a bitter power struggle with Uba, whose brother is one of Obasanjo’s closest aides — while a PDP faction burned government buildings and threatened to assassinate Ngige last month.

Western diplomats say Obasanjo, who also ruled Nigeria as a military general in the 1970s, has failed to live up to hopes for clean democratic governance since his first election win in 1999 which followed 15 years of military dictatorship.

The State Department said the 2003 polls were “marred by serious irregularities and fraud, including political violence,” despite being heralded by the government as the first successful transfer of power from one civilian government to another since the 1960’s.

Many Nigerians accuse Obasanjo of presiding over a “civilian dictatorship” which has brought them nothing but increased poverty, violence and corruption despite the OPEC (news – web sites) member country’s vast oil wealth.


 

VANGUARD

CNPP queries Obasanjo’s moral burden on Ogun polls

By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Tuesday, December 21, 2004

ABUJA— THE Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) said yesterday that President Olusegun Obasanjo had to live with what it called “the heavy moral burden of the electoral magic in Ogun State” on account of the judgment by the Court of Appeal in the electoral petition filed by defeated presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), General Muhammadu Buhari.

In its immediate reaction to yesterday’s judgment, the CNPP, in a one-page statement signed by its Secretary General, Mr Maxi Okwu, said: “For now, Obasanjo must live with the heavy moral burden of the electoral magic in Ogun State, which is to us a paradigm of the entire charade called 2003 general elections.”

The group’s conclusion flowed from this premise: “The CNPP wishes to sympathise with Nigeria on the outcome of the election petition filed by General Muhammadu Buhari against General Olusegun Obasanjo at the Court of Appeal today (yesterday).

“It was clear that a decision on a petition on an election that took place over20 months ago could not but be otherwise. In this case, the deck was totally skewed against the petitioner. The respondent all along continued to enjoy and abuse his incumbency. Justice has been delayed and definitely denied.

“A study by CNPP to be soon published and launched shows that election petition in Nigeria is mission impossible. The CNPP would be meeting shortly to fully digest the judgment and its implication. Also, a review of the tactics and strategy of the CNPP is in the offing.
“For now OBJ must live with the heavy moral burden of the electoral magic in Ogun State, which to us is a paradigm of the entire charade called 2003 general election.”

 


 

 

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