Written by Suleiman M. Bisalla & Umar Jibrilu Gwandu
One of the lawyers defending the election of Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua at the presidential poll tribunal in 2007 told American diplomats that INEC was busy cooking up result sheets to present to the tribunal because no real elections were held, according to leaked US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.
Kabiru Turaki, SAN, allegedly said INEC’s delay in producing result sheets and other documents demanded by the tribunal was because the electoral commission had no such papers to present to the court and was frantically fabricating result sheets and forging signatures to bring to the court.
The case before the tribunal then involved ANPP candidate retired General Muhammadu Buhari and Action Congress candidate Atiku Abubakar, who were challenging the declaration of Yar’adua as winner of the April 2007 presidential election.
The cable said Turaki told US Charge d’Affairs Robert Gribbing on July 31, 2007 that the presidential election tribunal “may well be programmed for failure” and that the delay experienced in getting INEC to supply documents to the tribunal was “intentional” because the commission had no such documents.
“In a conversation with PolOff that appeared at times incongruent and contradictory, Kabiru Turaki, a member of the legal team representing President Yar’Adua in the on-going Presidential Election Tribunal, averred that all petitions against the President would be jettisoned for lack of merit. Should the petitioners appeal such a decision, Turaki anticipates the Supreme Court will uphold the lower court’s ruling,” it said.
The cable emanated from the US embassy in Abuja, dated August 7, 2007, and signed by Mr. Gribbing.
But when contacted over the past week, Turaki told Daily Trust that he could not recall any such communication between him and the US diplomat and does not even know Mr. Gribbing. He asked to see the full Wikileaks cable before reacting further. He later sent this mobile phone text message to our reporter: “That’s just rubbish. You should know that too. I’m too intelligent for that kind of nonsensical comments ascribed to me.”
Turaki was PDP governorship candidate for Kebbi State for the 2007 election before he was replaced by Alhaji Saidu Dakingari following the ‘merger’ between the PDP and the ANPP in the state. He ran for governor on the platform of the CPC in the April 2011 elections.
Referring to the 2007 presidential election tribunal proceedings, the leaked US cable said, “Surprisingly, Turaki insisted that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) delay in supplying documents to the tribunal was intentional and due to the fact that no documents exist — he claims that INEC is busily fabricating tabulation and result sheets and forging signatures.”
“He opined that the tribunals are programmed for failure since, according to the court’s interpretation of the law, INEC is presumed innocent and to demonstrate INEC’s culpability in any electoral malpractice nation-wide would be virtually impossible. Turaki contends that the likely consolidation of petitions of the AC/Atiku, ANPP, and Buhari would bolster the President’s chances of winning since it would reduce the number of cases and would preclude either Buhari or Atiku learning from each other’s mistakes in court.”
Turaki also said that complainants were required to gather substantial evidence which could prove, through a preponderance of facts, that election results were invalid and should be nullified but added that “the thirty-day deadline for submitting all documentary evidence makes this virtually impossible.”
He said “in a case on the scale of the national elections, in particular, thirty days is insufficient to assemble evidence from the thirty-six states and the FCT.”
The cable said, “Turaki noted that respondents (like Yar’adua, for example) ‘have the resources and machinery of the state’ behind their efforts and thus stand a solid chance of winning. He observed that the Nigerian judiciary’s conventional interpretation of the 2006 Electoral Act presumes INEC innocent and places the burden of proof on the complainant.”
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