Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has acknowledged the constitutional right of the Presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to challenge the result of the election in court but that he will have what he called “insurmountable legal obstacles” to face.
In a statement today, Tuesday in Lagos, Falana said: “the frustration of election petitioners has been compounded by several judicial authorities, with some decisions holding that an election cannot be questioned on grounds of corrupt practices.”
He said that judicial authorities had upheld many elections despite the fact that the polls were marred by malfeasance, citing an example where a petitioner is required to prove that there is substantial non-compliance and that the non-compliance has substantially affected the results of the election.
“In Yussuf vs Obasanjo, it was held that an election cannot be questioned on grounds of corrupt practices.
“In Falae vs Obasanjo it was held that it has to be proved that financial inducement was authorised by the winner of an election.
“In Buhari vs Obasanjo it was held that the onus of proving electoral malpractice rests on the petitioner.
“Several fraudulent elections have been upheld under the doctrine of substantial compliance.
“In several cases, winners of fraudulent elections that were annulled were allowed to take part in rerun elections ordered by the courts.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria insisted that despite all such discouraging factors, the former Vice-President should not be blackmailed not to take the legal step over his election loss.
He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari who was declared the winner of the February 23 election had challenged his losses in court in the successive presidential elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011.
He also noted that many All Progressives Congress (APC) members who lost the just-concluded National Assembly elections had announced plans to challenge the return of their opponents by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The campaign that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should not seek redress is totally uncalled for.
“Aggrieved by the general elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011 conducted by INEC, Candidate Muhammadu Buhari sought redress in court.
“The chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole, and other APC leaders have had cause to claim their mandate through the court.
“Even some APC members who lost the just-concluded National Assembly elections have announced plans to challenge the return of their opponents by INEC.
“Therefore, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should not be blackmailed or begged by any group of people not to challenge the presidential election held in the country on February 23, 2019.
“Regrettably, however, the failure of the PDP and APC-led Federal Government to reform the electoral process has created insurmountable legal obstacles for election petitioners.”