The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has called an emergency national caucus meeting of the party.
Named the ‘Expanded Caucus Meeting’, the party is expected to use the occasion to get the support of its members to seek redress in court over the outcome of the presidential election.
The meeting, which will at the party secretariat in Abuja on Monday (today), will be presided over by the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus.
Secondus, though confirmed the meeting in an interview with one of our correspondents, refused to give details of its agenda.
However, inside sources said the NWC would brief the members about the outcome of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
It is also expected to deliberate on the forthcoming governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections scheduled for March 9.
A source close to the party said, “We will deliberate on what happened on February 23 across the country and also hear from our agents.
“We will also expect our presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to brief us. The party will back him on his decision to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress in court over the outcome of the rigged election.
“We will also discuss Saturday’s governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.”
We’ve started work on Atiku’s petition – lead counsel, Ozoukwu
Meanwhile, the lawyer leading Atiku’s legal team to the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, Mr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), said on Sunday that work had begun on the PDP presidential candidate’s petition and would be filed as soon as possible.
Asked by The PUNCH when the petition was likely to be filed, Uzouwku said, “All I can tell you for now is that we are already working on it and we would file it as soon as it is ready.
“Don’t forget this is a presidential election that covers all Nigeria. This is not a governorship, House of Representatives or senatorial election. We are talking about the whole of Nigeria.”
He noted that his client was still within the timeline to file the petition as the law gives an election petitioner 21 days from the day of the declaration of the results to file his or her complaints before the tribunal.
The presidential election held on February 23 but the result was not declared until February 27.
This implies that Atiku has until March 20 to file his petition.
From Monday (today), he has roughly 16 days to file it.
We’ll shock Buhari at election petitions tribunal, says PDP
The PDP has, however, said it will shock President Buhari and the ruling APC with what it called “shocking revelations” at the tribunal.
It said that its decision to challenge President Buhari’s victory at the tribunal was taken in the interest of the nation and not that the former ruling party was embarking on what it called an academic exercise.
Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, asked Nigerians to be patient, adding that the team of lawyers put together by the party and Atiku were already working hard to file their papers at the tribunal.
He said the PDP and Atiku would have conceded defeat if President Buhari had won the February 23 presidential election fair and square.
Secondus insisted that the PDP and Atiku were robbed of their victory by the APC, which he alleged, was aided by the military and the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Secondus said, “We will shock both Buhari and the APC at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal with facts and figures. We will also show videos and other ways through which the APC, INEC and the military collaborated to rig the election.
“The world and the entire country will see the details of what happened. We will reveal what they never believed we saw.
“No need to take issue with them. They (APC) claimed that they have evidence of fraud allegedly committed by the PDP as well. We will wait for them to come up with their lies.
“Unfortunately for them, the courts are not where propaganda will sway facts. Let them come with propaganda, we will hit them with facts and figures.”
Asked when the party and the candidate would file their papers, Secondus said, “The Electoral Act stipulates that. We will beat the time. So, don’t be in a hurry.”
We will make documents available to all parties – INEC
Meanwhile, INEC has promised not to take sides in the expected legal battle, saying that it will make documents available to all parties if called upon to do so.
But the commission also said that it would defend its actions during the elections.
The INEC National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Asked how prepared the commission was concerning the plan by Atiku and the PDP to go to court, he said the commission was not a political party and would not take a partisan posture in relation to the election petitions tribunal.
Okoye said, “The Independent National Electoral Commission is empowered to organise, conduct and supervise elections. The commission is not a political party and does not take a partisan posture in relation to election petitions.
“The commission is the regulator of political parties and the law and the constitution has delineated the jurisdiction of election petitions tribunal and the conditions for activating its jurisdiction.
“The commission conducted the Presidential and National Assembly elections on the February 23, 2019 and the Chief Electoral Commissioner of Nigeria and the Returning Officer for the Presidential election, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, declared the incumbent President as the winner of the election and declared him as duly elected.
“The commission organised a relatively peaceful election and complied substantially with the intendment of the constitution and the law.
“However, it is the constitutional and statutory right of every aggrieved candidate to approach either the National and state Houses of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal which has the original and exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether any person was validly elected to the National Assembly or the Court of Appeal which has original jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of the President or Vice-President under the constitution.
“INEC will defend the outcome of the election it conducted if it is served with processes from the tribunals or the Court of Appeal.
“The commission will make available all documents used in the conduct of elections to petitioners and respondents if the proper application is made and the processes and procedure for the application are followed.
“The commission has almost completed the reverse logistics in relation to the Presidential and National Assembly elections and the documents used in the conduct of the elections are in safe custody in the various offices of the commission.”
Okoye added that the commission must purge the smart card readers and reconfigure them for the conduct of the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections.
This, he said, would not affect any petition by either political parties or individuals before the tribunal.
He said, “What petitioners need are the data from the smart card readers which will be available to petitioners and respondents.
“Petitioners and respondents are assured that the commission will be professional and ethical in the handling of election petitions.
“The commission will not take issue with any political party but will respond to and investigate concrete allegations backed by evidence and not general allegations made without any shred of evidence.”
Senate will probe February 16 poll delay – Senator Gaya
In a related development, a principal officer of the Senate has disagreed with Senator Kabiru Gaya over the latter’s declaration that the upper chamber of the National Assembly will investigate the postponement of the February 16 Presidential and National Assembly elections by INEC.
Gaya, a member of the APC from Kano State, had told State House correspondents in Abuja on Sunday that lawmakers would probe the postponement by summoning INEC’s top managers for questioning.
The polls, originally scheduled for February 16, were shifted by one week to February 23 by INEC just hours to the start of voting.
The elections eventually held on February 23.
He stated that the investigation would be conducted after the legislators would have reconvened in Abuja on March 12.
Gaya noted that the postponement was the major reason the turnout of voters during the elections was poor.
But a principal officer of the Senate said that the red chamber had not taken any decision to probe INEC over the postponement of the February 16 elections.
The principal officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said no committee had been set up by the leadership to Senate to handle such assignment.
“I am a principal officer of the Senate. I am right now in my senatorial district, campaigning for my governorship candidate for next Saturday’s elections. If Senator Kabiru Gaya said that, it is his opinion. I am not aware of such decision and I have nothing to say on it.”
Meanwhile, attempts to get the reaction of the Senate leadership to the issue failed on Sunday as the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, and the spokesperson for the red chamber, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, could not be reached on phone.
They had also yet to respond to the text messages sent separately to their mobile phones as of the time of filing this report.
By legislative procedure, a member will first have to move a motion seeking a resolution of the Senate to investigate the postponement.
The motion will have to be passed by a majority vote of senators resolving to probe INEC.
But Gaya, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, said, “I was not happy when they shifted the elections and I said after shifting the elections we will call them and we will investigate INEC for shifting the elections because it caused poor turnout of voters on February 23.
“We will find out the reason – if it is funding, we gave them enough funding; if it was the issue of security, the security agencies were ready.
“So, why should INEC shift the elections? We are going to investigate that when we come back after the governorship election.
“But, generally, they did what they could do, I would say, it is a pass mark.”
The former governor of Kano State, who first came to Senate in 2007, praised Buhari for his re-election, saying that he deserved it on account of the work he did between 2015 and this year.
He added, “I remember when I was inspecting one of the roads in Nigeria here, at that time, President Buhari was abroad, I said Buhari will, Insha Allah, commission that road in his first term and also in second term, he will do the second part of the road.
“People doubted me, but thank God, God has done it – Buhari has run for election and he has won the election.
“I am not surprised he won because he has done so much for this country. Take for example, in terms of road, I am the Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, so I know that the budget for the 2014 before President Buhari came in was N22bn.
“But, when he came into office, the budget moved up to N220bn and you can see now the budget is between N300bn and N400bn in 2019. Therefore, the roads that were neglected for 19 years are now motorable. Also, in the agricultural sector, the importation of rice has dropped by 95 per cent.”
Giving his assessment of the voter turnout, the senator stated, “We had just between 30 and 40 per cent turnout all over the country. But, be that as it may, Kano has delivered, we have the highest number of votes and I think we can say that we are part of the determining factors for Buhari’s re-election because he has really done so much for us including the dualisation of the Kano-Abuja Road and the railway projects and so on.”