‘Presentation of certificate to INEC not mandatory’

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have faulted a core argument by Atiku Abubakar and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in their petition that the President was not qualified to contest the last presidential election.

The petitioners allegedly that President Buhari allegedly failed to submit his secondary school certificate to the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC).

The President and the APC argued that the Constitution does not mandate any candidate seeking to contest an election for the office of the President to attach his school certificate among documents to be attached to the Form CF001 to be submitted to INEC.

“Section 131(d) of the Constitution provides that a person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if ‘he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent’.

“From this clear constitutional provision, the question of tendering a certificate, or the mountain, which the petitioners have unfortunately made out of the molehill of a particular certificate, does not arise.

“All that the Constitution requires and demands is education up to school certificate level or its equivalent. While this section of the Constitution is very clear and unambiguous, giving no room for no conjecture, the Constitution goes further to define what ‘School Certificate or its equivalent’ means under Section 318,” they said.

This formed part of the arguments by President Buhari and APC in their final written addresses filed before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in reaction to similar final addresses filed by Atiku and the PDP.

The President and his party, while arguing that the petitioners failed to lead evidence in support of their claim that President Buhari lacked the academic qualification to stand for election, noted that they failed to call witnesses to ground the claim, except only one, who even admitted that President Buhari was qualified.

“The only witness who claimed to have had any intimacy with the respondent amongst the petitioners’ witnesses is PW1 – Buba Galadima – and his evidence, in his examination-in-chief and cross-examination, amounts to evidence against interest in several respects, including the fact that he was the Deputy Director General, Director of Operations and National Campaign Secretary of the respondent, in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

“His only alibi was that he never saw the respondent’s first School Leaving Certificate. Assuming there was even no cross-examination of this suspect witness, his evidence, rather man assisting the petitioners, supports the respondent.

“Under cross-examination, he (Galadima) told the court that he believed that the respondent was qualified to vie and contest for the office of President at the four times he supported him in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015; that respondent was military Head of State between 1983 and 1985; that respondent used to address the nation in English language.

“What else does one need to establish the fact that the second respondent (Buhari) was/is eminently qualified to contest the election than the evidence of PW1, a former close aide of the respondent, who has confessed falling out with him? It is an admission against interest, which is the most potent weapon a party can use against his adversary in litigation,” the respondents said.

They cited cases, including the recent decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, in the appeal brought against the decision of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by the candidate of the PDP in the last governorship election in Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, who was disqualified on ground of not possessing a secondary school certificate.

“It is apt to draw the court’s attention to the fundamental fact that the decision in the Adeleke v. Raheem (supra), was arrived at while this Honourable Court was sitting on an appeal on a pre-election matter, which challenged the educational qualification of Adeleke, as well as the presentation of his Form CF001 to INEC, pursuant to the provision of Section 31(4) and (5) of the Electoral Act, which makes the subject a pre-election matter and not a post-election matter, as the petitioners have done in this case, for reasons best known to them.

“May we further draw the attention of the court to the fact that in the Adeleke case, supra, the main reliefs sought against him relate to his disqualification under and by virtue of Section 177(d) of the Constitution on the grounds that he gave false information in his Form CF001 submitted to the INEC, claiming to have met the constitutional requirements, whereas, in the detailed result submitted by him, he only sat for English Language, where he failed woefully, scoring F9, and failed to turn up for any of the other subjects.

“The West African Examination Council (WAEC) certified that he registered for the examination, sat for only one subject and failed to attend the other subjects. Adeleke did not have any other qualifying certificate or public service experience, be it in the Armed Forces, teaching service, or anywhere at all.

“Unlike the respondent, who has shown his certificates qua result at the Secondary School level, apart from being commissioned into the Nigerian Army as 2nd Lieutenant in 1963, he attended the Nigerian Military Training College (now the Nigerian Defence Academy) for 12 months; the Officer ‘Cadet Training Course at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, England; the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India; the War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States of America, rising through the ranks to attain the rank of Major General; former Military Head of State, a man, who can communicate and who has been communicating effectively in English language.

“With much respect, it is preposterous, and very unfortunate that the petitioners would make the educational qualification of the respondent an issue in this petition. On the flip side, it is submitted that this shows that the petitioners have nothing to urge on the court, thus, holding to any available straw,” the President and APC said.

<<The Nation>>