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Nigerian tribunal upholds President Buhari's reelection

Sola Jaiyesimi
September 11, 2019

A Nigerian election tribunal has rejected a bid by the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to overturn the February presidential election.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari gestures to supporters
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Curtis

In upholding Buhari's election victory, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal ruled that Buhari's main challenger in the presidential race, Atiku Abubakar had failed to prove allegations of electoral fraud sufficiently. 

The tribunal rejected all three of Atiku's claims: that the election was marred by irregularities, that he received more
votes than Buhari and that the president did not have a secondary school certificate, a basic requirement to contest the

"This petition is hereby dismissed in its entirety," Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba said in announcing the ruling. The five-member panel of justices found that Buhari did have the level of education to contest a presidential election.

An appeal expected

In the wake of the election, Atiku alleged that Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC), in connivance with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had stolen the vote.

More than 60 witnesses for the Atiku camp and a handful appear before the tribunal for Buhari. 

The ruling is a significant blow to Atiku's argument that he had secured the highest number of votes based on the results in the central computer server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). 

In disputes over presidential elections in Nigeria, losers have a right to approach the highest court, the Supreme Court. Atiku is widely expected to appeal the tribunal's ruling. 

Read more:  Election showdown between Nigeria's 'political grandfathers'

Atiku (left) and Buhari (right) were allies in the All Progressives Congress until 2017
Atiku (left) and Buhari (right) were allies in the All Progressives Congress until 2017Image: imago/ZUMA Press

Atiku vs Buhari

Atiku pointed to results he claimed are contained in the central server of the INEC, which he insisted showed that he had won. Buhari disputed the allegation.

The official results as announced by the INEC showed Buhari won 15,191,847 votes, to Atiku's 11,262,978.

Buhari argued before the tribunal that Atiku was not eligible to contest the poll because he was not Nigerian by birth. Atiku – a former Nigerian vice president – was born in Jada town, in what was then a part of Cameroon.

Atiku, on the other hand, had argued before the tribunal that Buhari – a former military ruler–, was not educationally-qualified.  He insisted that the president did not possess a secondary school certificate at the time he stood for election, also a constitutional requirement.       

Nigerians have closely followed the dispute in the months since they went to the polls. Buhari recently named his cabinet, which held its first sitting on 11 September 2019. Atiku is not the first runner-up in a presidential race to reject the outcome of a vote in Nigeria under a civilian administration and go to court. If he succeeds ultimately, he would be the first to do so.