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Nigeria’s Former VP’s Election Court Challenge to be Heard Next Week

In Nigeria, a tribunal set up to adjudicate concerns raised by losing opposition candidates in April’s general elections says it would hear the case filed by attorneys for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar next week. The session, scheduled for July 19, comes after attorneys for the former vice president petitioned the court challenging the Independent Electoral Commission’s (INEC) declaration of Alhaji Umar Yar'Adua as the president. The attorneys contend that not only were there widespread voter irregularities during the elections, but the electoral Act of 2006 was grossly violated. Both local and international observers declared the elections as deeply flawed.

From Benin City, Nigeria, one of Abubakar’s attorneys, John Odubela, tells VOA English to Africa service reporter Peter Clottey the tribunal will hear their petition next week.

“After we filed our petition on behalf of the former vice president, it was served on the current president, the vice president and all the parties, but up till now, they have not found any defect to the petition. So what we have done is to apply to the tribunal to give us a date for the pre-hearing of the petition, so the tribunal has acceded to that and have accordingly picked the 19th of July 2007 for us to start the pretrial or the pre-hearing conference for the petition,” Odubela pointed out.

He said he is sure the election results being challenged by the former vice president would be overturned.

“Oh yes, we are confident, because the petition itself was about so many corrupt practices, so many breaches of the Electoral Act… and we are confident that at the end of the day that elections would be nullified,” he said.

Odubela dismissed speculation that if the election results were overturned, the country would be plunged into a political crisis.

“No, No, No, the constitution is very clear. If the election is nullified, the constitution is clear as to who would take over during the time the election would be held. And after the election is held, whosoever wins in a free and fair election would then be sworn in by the chief justice of Nigeria, so there is no likely to be chaos at all,” he noted.

He said Nigerians are familiar with the electoral irregularities during the April general elections.

“Most Nigerians knew and were pretty well aware even from the local and international observers that, elections of 2007, particularly the presidential, were full of malpractices, corrupt practices, and a lot of atrocities were committed,” he said.

Odubela said the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) violated the Electoral Act of 2006.

“We are saying for instance now, that if you look at the ballot papers used during the election, the Electoral Act says that the ballot papers should carry serial numbers. You would find out that the ballot papers used for that election did not have serial numbers. It’s just a fundamental breach of the Electoral Act,” Odubela noted.

He cited instances he claims contributed to the violations of the Electoral Act.

“There were areas where voting was conducted on Sunday. The provisions of the Electoral Act to enable such elections were not complied with. There were a lot of areas where people were disenfranchised. They were not allowed to vote. There were areas because of the late arrival of ballot papers, where voting did not take place until about three, four o’ clock in the evening, and voting went ahead till about late in the night, when there was no electricity. You can imagine so many corrupt practices that characterized the last presidential election in Nigeria,” he said.