Former vice president and presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC) in the last general elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on Monday told the presidential election tribunal that the ballot papers, which did not carry serial numbers as required by the Electoral Act and used for the presidential election were actually printed by the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc, contrary to claims by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that they were printed in South Africa.
Atiku, who opened his case against the election victory of President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, also tendered some documents from 15 states of the federation to buttress his allegation that the election that produced the president was riddled with rigging and irregularities, including the non conformity with the Electoral Act 2006.
A synopsis of the documents admitted by the tribunal as exhibits from Atiku included the following:
•List of presidential candidates published by INEC on its website as those standing validly nominated in the election of April 21, 2007. The list shows that Alhaji Atiku was not among the candidates
•List of presidential candidates published by INEC and posted on their boards nationwide as validly nominated to contest as at March 20, 2007. The list shows that Alhaji Atiku was not among the candidates.
•The presidential election result as published on INEC website, showing that no score was recorded for Alhaji Atiku in the election.
•South African Mail and Guardian Newspaper editions of April, 26 2007 and May 3, 2007 respectively in which it was reported that ballot papers for the presidential election were contracted to be printed only three days to the election; that they were abandoned after printing while some were air freighted from South Africa only on the eve of the election.
•Daily Trust newspaper of August, 17, 2007 wherein Yar’ Adua admitted that all INEC commissioners were appointed from list submitted by Peoples Democratic Party members no matter where they are posted and that he proposes to reverse the practice by setting up an electoral reform panel.
•Ballot papers used during the election, which shows that they were printed by Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc and not in South Africa as claimed by INEC. The ballot papers did not carry any mandatory serial numbers as required by the Electoral Act.
Though Atiku was not at the tribunal, his counterpart from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), General Muhammadu Buhari, who had closed his case against Yar’Adua, was in attendance.
Atiku’s legal team headed by Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN) tendered the documents, which were not opposed by counsel to Yar’ Adua, Wole Olanikpekun (SAN) and other respondents.
Rickey Tarfa tendered the South African Mail and Guardian Newspaper editions of April 26, 2007 and May 3, 2007 respectively, which reported that the printed ballot papers for the presidential election were contracted to be printed only three days to the election. It was further reported that some of the ballot papers were abandoned after printing, while some were air freighted from South Africa only on the eve of the election.
Atiku submitted: “Ballot papers (used and unused) for the 21st April, 2007 presidential election showing inter alia, the imprint of NSPM Plc, colour, variations, endorsed with zeros (000000000) as serial number and others without any endorsement as to serial number.”
He punctured the claim by INEC that the ballot papers were printed in South Africa and said in the document that air traffic flight schedule (data) at the Murtala Muhammed airport, Lagos of April 20 and 21, 2007 would be tendered by subpoenaed witness from National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
Atiku also tendered results of the election in 15 states of federation, including Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Niger, Kebbi, Imo and Enugu States. The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice James Ogebe admitted documents from all the 15 states.
The vice president also submitted the list of presidential candidates published by INEC on its website as those standing validly nominated in the election of April 21, 2007. The list shows that Alhaji Atiku was not among the candidates.
Other documents include the list of presidential candidates published by INEC and posted on its boards nationwide as validly nominated to contest as at March 20, 2007. The list shows that Alhaji Atiku was not among the candidates.
He said that the presidential election result as published on INEC website, showed that no score was recorded for him in the election.
Atiku further told the tribunal that Daily Trust newspaper of August, 17, 2007 said that President Yar’ Adua admitted that all INEC commissioners were appointed from list submitted by Peoples Democratic Party members no mater where they are posted ; and that he proposes to reverse the practice by setting up and Electoral Reform Panel.
Atiku would also rely on interim and final reports of all international and local election observers in respect of the April 21, 2007 general elections and they include those from Justice, Development and Peace/Caritas Nigeria, Transition Monitoring Group, International Republican Institute and European Union Election Observation Mission.
Others are video clips of national and local television stations before, during and after the election and they include materials from Vanguard, Thisday, The Nation, The Punch, The Sun Newspapers among several other publications.
Meanwhile, General Buhari says that with a voter population of less than 70 million, compared to India, which has about 600 million voters, Nigeria still does not know how best to conduct elections.
He spoke during a courtesy visit on the Catholic Bishop of Abuja Diocese, Reverend John Onaiyekan who emerged recently as the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
The ANPP presidential candidate noted that India, with a complex situation in terms of language, religion, ethnicity and population still manages to do everything right.
The poverty level in India , he said, was serious than the situation in Nigeria, yet India had continued to showcase its democratic credentials to the admiration of the entire world.
While describing violence as a problem caused by the elite, Buhari warned those involved to be cautious of their actions so that the country would not be plunged into violence because of some selfish individuals.
He, however, expressed confidence in the judiciary to stabilise the polity, saying the judiciary had restored the hope of the common man.
Responding, Reverend Onaiyekan lamented that many Nigerians were aggrieved about the conduct of the last election in the country and wondered why the electoral laws had made it impossible for voters to go to court to challenge the outcome of the polls.
He said it was regrettable that everybody agreed that the April election was a bad job except INEC, adding that since all Nigerians agreed to the constitution in operation it was better to go by the rule.
According to him, where there was no justice, there could not be peace, adding that as a religious body, Christians would continue to pray for the country so that justice could be done.
Chief Olanipekun (SAN), in an interview with journalists expressed delight about the procedure at the tribunal, saying it was not as scandalous as the one in 2003.
He said that in 2003, it took almost two years before the tribunal delivered its judgment adding that with the co-operation by lawyers of all parties before the tribunal, it would not take more than the necessary period for the tribunal to rule on all petitions before it.
He said it was a lesson particularly for lawyers on the importance of expeditious hearing and determination of suit, commending the judiciary for adding credibility to the nation’s electoral system.
– The Sun