PDP, Atiku file petition against victory of APC, Buhari

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar/ AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

• Army condemns INEC’s position on Rivers election
• SARS operatives allegedly intimidate collation officers

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday filed a petition challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the presidential election conducted by INEC on February 23.

The petition was filed at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on the premises of the Court of Appeal Abuja by lawyers for Atiku and the opposition party last night.

The petitioners are challenging the election of Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the grounds of alleged massive rigging, malpractices and non-compliance with the electoral laws. Respondents in the suit are the APC, Buhari and INEC.

They are praying for a declaration of the court that they should be proclaimed victors of the presidential poll and that the tribunal should nullify the election and order a fresh poll in line with provisions of the electoral laws.

The national legal adviser of the PDP, Emmanuel Enoidem, confirmed the development to journalists. A copy however had not been made available to the media at the time this report was filed.

The legal adviser said the PDP and its presidential candidate have already assembled a sound legal team, comprising 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria and other lawyers who would establish the facts of the petition. He also said that over 400 witnesses have been assembled to testify during the hearing.

On the order earlier granted to Atiku to inspect materials used in the conduct of the presidential election, Enoidem said the petitioners would employ the reports of the party’s polling agents across the country to establish facts of the petition.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has faulted the position of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the role military personnel played during the governorship election in Rivers State.

INEC in a recent report had said that soldiers and armed gangs intimidated and unlawfully arrested the commission’s staff during the poll.

But in a statement yesterday, the deputy director of army public relations, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, said: “The army as a stakeholder in the 2019 general elections takes exception to the lopsided and unfair INEC report and (the report) is hereby strongly and totally rejected by the NA.”

He said the army is “equally disappointed with the attitude exhibited by the Nigerian Police in this regard and hereby requests the police leadership to commence full scale investigation of those security aides to Governor Wike that attacked troops at the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area headquarters collation centre and shot at Captain A.A. Salami, with a view to appropriately sanctioning those found responsible/culpable. Until that is done, Headquarters 6 Division NA will have to review all existing joint activities with the Rivers State Police Command.”

He said: “Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army (NA) has observed with dismay and sense of betrayal in the statement made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) signed by its National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, on March 15, 2019. The statement according to INEC was the outcome of its fact-finding committee that assessed the situation in Rivers State.

“It is pertinent to note that representatives of 6 Division met with the committee on Tuesday March 12, 2019 at the INEC headquarters in Port Harcourt and had honest discussions and made a written submission to aid the committee in its task.

“Regrettably, none of the Division’s inputs formed any of the findings of INEC as made public. This clearly indicates lack of trust by an institution that the NA sacrifices so much to assist in the course of performing its role.”

Besides, operatives of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) in Rivers State have been accused of allegedly intimidating INEC staff as the commission completes the collation of results.

Sources revealed that the operatives were asking the officers to allege theft of the election materials or be dealt with. The officers reportedly vowed that they would not succumb to any threat, insisting they would only do what was right. They were said to have promised to do their job conscientiously by collating the result and declaring the same.

Asked to react to the allegation, police spokesman, Frank Mba, said via telephone: “The best thing to do is for you to call the River State Police command. We don’t micro-manage commands. The commands are there to address such issues.”

Spokesperson of the Rivers State Police Command Nnamdi Omoni said he was not aware of the allegation.

This was as the senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District, Magnus Abe, said no one could handpick a governor for Rivers State. According to him, the right to do so rests squarely on the shoulders of Rivers people.

He stated this at the funeral of the late Pa Macdonald Graham Harry, father of Dr. Ipalibo Harry, Federal Commissioner, National Population Commission, held at Saint Alban’s Anglican Church Obuama, Degema Local Government Area of the State.

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