Legality of Nigerian President’s election upheld

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Nigeria’s apex Supreme Court Friday upheld the 2007 election of President Umaru Yar’Adua and rejected the prayers for its nullification by two opposition presidential candidates.

The election petitions in the presidential election held on 21 April 2007 were filed by Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress (AC) and Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

In the case of Buhari, who challenged the election on the grounds that the ballot papers used were not serially numbered in accordance with the country’s Electoral Act, the judges ruled 4-3 against the petitioner.

But the three dissenting judges, in ruling for the petitioner, held that the moment it is accepted that ballot papers – the single most important instrument in an election – are not serialised, and that non-serialisation makes them invalid, then the election based on such ballot papers cannot be valid.

In the case of Abubakar, a former Nigerian Vice President, the judgement was 6-1 in favour of Yar’Adua.

The single dissenting judge in the case, which centres on the fact that Abubakar was ‘excluded’ as his name was not put on the ballot until five days to the election, disagreed with his colleagues that he (Abubakar) participated in the election after all.

He ruled that the candidate was ”constructively excluded” as a level playing ground was not given to him in the elections.

Reacting to the ruling, the main opposition AC party said the Supreme Court ”has thrown away a rare chance to make election rigging and manipulation a thing of the past and lift Nigeria’s democracy to new heights”.

While saying it has accepted the ruling as a law-abiding party, AC noted that ”accepting the ruling is not the same as agreeing with it, especially because it went against the emerging trend around the world to punish election riggers, in addition to ensuring they do not benefit from their crime.

AC said the positions of the three dissenting judges in the case involving Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and one dissenting judge in the case filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar represent ”equity, justice, common sense and the yearnings of all Nigerians”.

“We are encouraged by the courage of the dissenting judges in both cases. We say unequivocally that their judgements show that there are still people of intelligence, deep knowledge and high integrity in the Supreme Court.

“We will also like to say that the rulings, especially the harsh words for INEC by the justices, showed the petitioners were indeed right to have pursued their cases to the highest court, and that indeed they and the entire people of Nigeria, rather than Yar’Adua and the system, are the winners!” AC said.

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