By Yemi Itodo
Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has said the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the just concluded election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has all the needed facts to prosecute his case at the tribunal and come out victorious.
Uzoukwu disclosed this in an interview with our correspondent Monday night shortly after leading other lawyers to file petition on behalf of Alhaji Abubakar at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on February 27, declared President Buhari, the flag-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), winner of the presidential election.
But Abubakar and his party, PDP, were dissatisfied with the conduct of the election and the eventual declaration of Mr. Buhari as the winner.
In a bit to meet up with the 21 days stipulated by section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2010, Dr. Uzoukwu, head of Atiku/Obi legal team, led other lawyers to submit a petition on behalf of his client and the PDP Monday night.
The petition which was duly signed by Alhaji Abubakar himself, has the PDP as co-petitioner while INEC, APC and President Buhari were joined as respondents.
Dr. Uzoukwu expressed optimism that his client would emerge victorious at the tribunal, saying he was convinced that PDP won the presidential election in the first place.
“I believe we have sufficient facts to move the court to appreciate our case and grant us our reliefs.
“We are ready and prepared to prove our case because it all depends on proofs and we are ready to prove our case.
“We have filed the petition, which is most fundamental, with some documents”, he said.
Though he admitted the team was currently having challenges accessing documents from INEC, but he said that would not deter them from continuing with the suit.
“We may be having some challenges accessing documents from INEC, notwithstanding, we have filed the petition and with time, INEC shall be made to obey the orders of the court of appeal and grant us access to electoral documents.
“That we have filed petition does not mean we can not make use of those documents when we eventually secure them from INEC.
Some members of the team were in INEC three times last week, they were in INEC yesterday and even today but they asked them to come tomorrow (Tuesday), that by tomorrow they will provide them with some documents.
“I do hope that INEC will keep to its words and do the needful, because they have no option as far as the matter is concerned. Because we are talking about the compliance with an order of the court”, he added.
On the question of moral qualification posed on the Chairperson of the Tribunal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, whose husband is a Senator-elect under the APC, Dr. Uzoukwu said his team would wait until the matter begins at the tribunal.
He said, “I don’t want to express any opinion in that regard now, but until the matter is ready to go on, because as we speak, I do not have the facts and I don’t want to speculate”.
When asked if he still believed in the Justice system, considering what had happened in Nigeria’s judiciary recently, Dr. Uzoukwu said, “I don’t want to speculate, I still believe, with all honesty, that we have in this country, very knowledgeable and very courageous Judges and baring in mind that, with this petition, I seriously believe the judiciary will be on trial. Also, the democracy will be on trial”.
To successful prosecute the case at the tribunal, Alhaji Abubakar and the PDP are said to have assembled about 20 SANs and 400 witnesses.
The lawyers are praying the tribunal that, their client, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar be returned “as person who won majority of lawful votes cast at the election”.
In an event that the main prayer does not scale through, the lawyers also pushed for an alternative prayer, “that the election be set aside and for the court to order a rerun”.
But according to Uzoukwu, “the alternative prayer can only come to play if the court does not agree with us in the main prayer.
“But I believe we have substantial facts to prove our case, to prove our entitlement to the main relief. I’m convinced beyond any doubt that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won the election”.
Having successful filed the petition, the petitioners now await the respondents to file their replies. After filing their replies, the petitioners also have 7 days to react to what they file, thereafter, the pre-trial will commence.
The tribunal has 180 days under the electoral act, to abjudicate the petition.