The Supreme Court Wednesday in Abuja affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal upholding the victory of President Goodluck Jonathan at last April's presidential election.
In a unanimous decision, the apex court held that the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) failed to discharge the burden of proof placed upon it by the Electoral Act. But the flag bearer of the CPC at the poll, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has rejected the ruling and said he was disappointed that the apex court failed to use its powers to address the challenge of electoral irregularities.
The court said CPC failed to prove its allegation that the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) did not conduct the election according to the provisions of the law. It also held that the allegation of non-compliance as alleged by the appellant, the CPC, was not proven and that the burden did not shift to the electoral body or any of the respondents to prove that the allegation of non-compliance was enough to have affected the outcome of the election.
In the lead judgment, which was read by Justice Olufunmilayo Adekeye, the court held that mere allegation of substantial non-compliance by the CPC did not automatically shift the burden to the respondents to prove that the outcome of the election was not affected by such non-compliance.
The court further held that the refusal by the trial court to allow the CPC swap witnesses' depositions and which the party failed to appeal against took the wind out of their petition in that, there was no evidence in the acceptable format to support the party's allegation of substantial non-compliance in the election.
Consequently, the court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal which upheld the victory of Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo as winners of the last April's presidential election.
In his reaction, CPC’s presidential candidate in the poll, Buhari, slammed the court for closing its eyes to the abuse of the electoral guidelines by INEC and decried the refusal of the electoral body to allow his party access to materials used by the commission in the conduct of the election to enable the party prove its allegation of malpractices during the election.
He blamed the violence which broke out in some states after the presidential election on such electoral malpractices and maintained that the Supreme Court, which ought to use its powers to address such, had chosen to look the other way in returning a verdict upholding the results of such a marred election.
Excited by the judgment, Jonathan in his reaction said he welcomed the court’s declaration of his candidature as the validly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, that with the unanimous decision of the seven Justices of the Supreme Court, a final seal on litigations challenging his victory at the polls had been put on his mandate.
Jonathan congratulated Buhari for his faith in the Nigerian judiciary where he had gone to ventilate his grievances over the result of the poll and hope that having taken the contest of the result to the highest judicial level which vindicated his (Jonathan) victory, he (Buhari) would now rest his case.
The PDP also described the unanimous judgment as a vindication that the election was credible.
Speaking with THISDAY, the Acting National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Abubarkar Kawu Baraje, said: “The decision of the Supreme Court is a vindication of Nigerians that the election was credible. It is a vindication that Nigerians voted for the PDP. It shows that the election was free and fair.”
In his comment, the Acting National Secretary of PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo, said: “This is a verdict for posterity.”
Also, Chairman PDP G.84, Alhaji Issa Tafida Mafinda, said: “Elections have come and gone. This is the time for governance. I am calling on all Nigerians to join hands with the president in his transformative agenda.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof Ahmed Alkali, said: “With this, the 2011 election has come to a successful conclusion. Nigeria should unite behind the president so that he can lead this country to greater heights.”
Senate President David Mark said the ruling was a true reflection of the wishes expressed by the majority of Nigerians at the April polls.
In a congratulatory message to Jonathan, Vice-President Sambo and the PDP family, Mark said the victory should be deployed for the service of Nigerians.
Mark said: “It is only here that people go to the polls with a mindset that they must win. We must build the culture of accepting the final decision of the electorate.”
Speaking in the same vein, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu enjoined Nigerians to support the Jonathan administration for the speedy transformation of the country.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, also said the judgment by the learned justices of the apex court had reaffirmed the decision Nigerians made by electing the president during the last presidential election.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mallam Imam Imam, Tambuwal urged members of the opposition, especially the CPC, to join hands with the present administration to provide the leadership needed for the development of the country.
Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, congratulated Jonathan on his victory at the apex court and described the judgment as victory for democracy.
Also speaking, Minister of State for Education, Mr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, said with the judgment, all political groups should line up behind the president in the larger interest of the nation.
Niger State Governor, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, also hailed the verdict.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Malam Danladi Ndayebo, Aliyu said the judgment confirmed the widely-held belief that the ruling of the lower court was sound and beyond reproach.
“I commend the Supreme Court for vindicating us, PDP. I say for the umpteenth time that democracy will only be strengthened when justice is not only done but is seen to have been done,” he said.