Supporters of Nigeria’s former Vice President Atiku Abubakar are questioning the legality of the first meeting between United States President George Bush and President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua which will take place today Thursday at the White House. This comes after Nigeria’s Supreme Court threw out a petition brought by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the former vice president against the election of President Yar’Adua.
Both local and international observers described the elections as largely flawed. John Odubela is one of the attorneys for Ex-Vice President Abubakar. From the capital, Abuja, he tells reporter Peter Clottey the court’s ruling is a victory for the former vice president.
“At a time when we petitioned at the tribunal, the court of appeal, which has the original jurisdiction to hear the petition of the presidential elections, INEC, as one of the respondents brought an application, the court dismissed that application. So they now appealed to the Supreme Court which now has dismissed that same application to dismiss Atiku’s petition,” Odubela pointed out.
He said supporters of the former vice president have welcomed the Supreme Court ruling.
“It means it’s a victory because that means INEC’s efforts to prematurely dismiss Atiku’s petition have been laid to rest. So, as far as INEC is concerned, the petition of Atiku would be heard on merit,” he opined.
Odubela said the ruling of the Supreme Court significantly enhances the former vice president’s decision to challenge the April elections.
“Definitely. Definitely, because what the Supreme Court has said is that the technicality that must have been raised by INEC has been dismissed. So it follows that the chances the elections might still be annulled is still very sound,” Odubela pointed out.
He said President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua would be forced to step down if the tribunal finds it conclusive that the April elections were undermined.
“Whether he (President Yar’Adua) is being recognized by the whole world, the legal effect is that if at the end of the day the court finds out that the election was marred by malpractices and everything the election would be nullified. And you and I know the effect of that means that the foundation of Yar’Adua has been set aside. So even if he is recognized by all the nations, once the court rules that there is no longer a president as a result of the elections, that is the end of it,” he said.
Odubela said the former president’s team of lawyers is waiting for the next directive from the tribunal adjudicating the April elections.
“It’s now that all parties have to present their case. So it has been adjourned and we are now to file final addresses, which would be adopted in January, and the court would reserve judgment, so we are almost concluded. I don’t see the judgment going beyond February, all things being equal,” Odubela noted.