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Nigerian Court Upholds Presidential Election

The Supreme Court in Nigeria on Friday rejected an opposition challenge to the 2007 election of President Umaru Yar'Adua. The losing opposition candidates have sought to overturn the election on the grounds that the vote was rigged.

The court said former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, the two main opposition presidential candidates in the 2007 vote, failed to provide enough evidence to back up their charge that last year's election was too flawed to be credible.

Four justices supported the decision while three took a dissenting opinion. Justice Nike Tobi was one those who upheld the election of President Yar'Adua.

"Can the appellate really contend they proved their case? There are tons and torrents of allegations galore of corrupt practices. Were they proved? I did not see any proof," he said.

In a dissenting opinion, George Oguntade, who spoke for two other colleagues, said there was sufficient evidence to sustain the claim that the vote was invalid.

"How can the returning officer be satisfied in the circumstances if the ballot papers, as in this case, are not bound in booklet form or numbered serially?" he asked. " How can he say with certainty that the ballot papers in question were actually supplied to the presiding officer of a particular polling station when the ballot papers, as in this case, were neither bound nor numbered serially. It is with regard to the above consideration that I find myself unable to agree with the majority decision of my learned brothers in this appeal."

All the parties welcomed the verdict. The widely expected decision ends nearly two years of legal wrangling in Africa's most populous country.

With his legal challenges behind him, President Yar'Adua is expected to concentrate on the challenges facing his administration in the wake of the global financial crisis and tumbling oil prices.

Security was tight as the court decision was announced with armed security men taking up positions around and inside the Court complex. Several top officials, including state governors and cabinet ministers, attended Friday's court session.