Supreme Court to conceal panel on Atiku’s appeal till last minute

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja) and Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri)

• ‘Even members won’t have prior information’ • Hearing holds Wednesday • Opposition political parties caution judiciary on loss of integrityThe judiciary has resolved to keep a lid on the members of the Supreme Court panel who will hear the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), which upheld the election of President Muhammadu Buhari. The appeal is scheduled for hearing on Wednesday.

The appellants had approached the court shortly after the September 11 verdict with 66 reasons why the apex court should upturn the tribunal’s decision. The five-man panel had in its lead judgment delivered by its chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, held that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations against Buhari and subsequently dismissed the petitions for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

The countdown to the appeal has however been shadowed by public interest in who the members would be and when they would be unveiled.But a source close to the apex court yesterday told The Guardian that the composition of the panel would remain shrouded in mystery. According to the insider, not even the members of the panel would have the faintest whiff of their involvement, as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has vowed to mask all details “until the 11th hour.”

Bothered by the silence, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) yesterday regretted that over 45 days after the tribunal’s verdict, the Supreme Court is yet to constitute the appeal panel.“The development is very worrisome to the opposition political parties, as critical stakeholders in the nation’s democracy,” the CUPP said in a statement by its spokesperson, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere.

“The CUPP calls on well-meaning Nigerians and lovers of democracy to prevail on the Supreme Court to do the needful on this matter before it is too late, by ensuring that the integrity and public confidence in the apex court is not destroyed.“We insist that we shall declare a total lack of confidence in any panel constituted in violation of the age-long order of seniority. The apex court must be ready to be on the side of the people in saving this nation and its democracy.”

Atiku and PDP in their 95-page appeal are urging the Supreme Court to set aside all the decisions of the tribunal, saying it erred in reaching the conclusion that the petitioners failed to prove their case against the respondents.The petitioners had hinged their case on the allegation that Buhari lied on oath on his Form CF001, which he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), seeking clearance to contest the position of president in the election.

With INEC, Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as respondents, other allegations in the petition included election irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act and guidelines during the elections.

But the tribunal ruled that Buhari was “eminently qualified” to contest the poll.In the appeal therefore, the petitioners held that the panel erred in law by stating that Buhari was eligible. They also accused the panel of defending Buhari.

In ground one of the appeal, Atiku and PDP held that the tribunal erred in law when it relied on “overall interest of justice” to hold that Buhari’s documents were properly admitted in evidence. They noted that the documents, which bordered on his certificates, were not pleaded and were not front-loaded.

The appellant, on ground two, challenged the part of the ruling, which held that Buhari does not need to attach his certificates to his Form CF 001. They submitted that the tribunal gave restrictive interpretation to Section 76 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to exclude Form CF001 from its provisions.More in Home


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“The conduct of election by the first respondent starts with the screening of candidates. No candidate can be screened unless he completes Form CF001 (Exhibit P1). In Form CF001, under the column for ‘Schools Attended/Educational Qualification with dates’, there is the clear provision for attaching evidence of all educational qualifications.”

The appellants said: “Certificates are evidence of educational qualifications.” They went further to accuse the tribunal of attaching evidential value to the military statement on Buhari’s certificate. Thus making a case for him after rejecting the same document for lack of probative value.They maintained that the crucial issue in their case was that the purported claim by Buhari that his “Primary School Leaving Certificate, WASC and Officer Cadet” are

with the Secretary of the Military Board is false.

The appellants also faulted the tribunal on the variation in the name of Buhari, asking whether Mohammed, Muhammed or Muhammadu referred to one and the same person. They argued that Buhari neither claimed in his pleadings nor showed evidence that at any time, he was known as “Mohammed Buhari.”In this article: Atiku AbubakarMuhammadu Buhari‎

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IS chief Baghdadi buried at sea by US military

By AFP29 October 2019   |   11:33 am

US officials have said the body of Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was buried at sea, as fresh details surfaced about the US special forces operation that led to his death over the weekend.

Syrian Kurds claimed to be a key source of the intelligence that led Americans to Baghdadi after years of tracking the man behind a five-year reign of terror across much of Iraq and Syria.

And an unnamed US military dog became an unlikely hero of the raid, incurring injuries as it chased Baghdadi down a dead-end tunnel underneath his northwestern Syria hideout, where the jihadist blew himself and three children up with a suicide vest.

The US military basked in success Monday after eliminating the founder and spiritual guide of the Islamic State (IS) group, capping a years-long campaign to crush the Sunni Muslim extremist organization that had at one point created a “caliphate” the size of England.

“His death marks a devastating blow to the remnants of (IS),” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Raid undertaken ‘brilliantly’

He praised the nearly hundred-strong force that helicoptered to the rural compound in the Idlib region of Syria in a complex mission that required coordination with Russians, Kurds, Turks and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to prevent US aircraft from being fired upon.

“They executed the raid in all of its facets brilliantly,” Esper said.More in Home

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Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said no one was injured in the operation, despite the US team taking fire when they arrived.

They took two men prisoner, and Baghdadi’s body was taken to a secure facility for a DNA test that would confirm his identity, Milley said.

“The disposal of his remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately,” he added, saying it was handled “in accordance with the law of armed conflict.”

Another Pentagon official confirmed that Baghdadi’s body was put into the sea at an unnamed location, similar to the 2011 sea burial of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after his death in a US special forces raid in Pakistan.

Baghdadi’s underwear

A Kurdish official said an inside source the group oversaw was responsible for leading US forces to Baghdadi’s hideout, helping to map out the interior of the compound, its staffing, as well as making it possible for them to identify Baghdadi.

“Since 15 May, we have been working together with the CIA to track al-Baghdadi and monitor him closely,” said Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The group had an informant who was able to infiltrate Baghdadi’s house.

“Al-Baghdadi changed his places of residence very often,” he said on Twitter.

“Our intelligence source was involved in sending co-ordinates, directing the airdrop, participating in and making the operation a success until the last minute,” Polat Can said.

The source also “brought al-Baghdadi’s underwear to conduct a DNA test and make sure (100%) that the person in question was al-Baghdadi himself,” he said.

‘Beautiful’ military dog

Attention focused as well on the unnamed dog — likely a Belgian Malinois, a breed favoured by the military, which chased Baghdadi into a tunnel under the complex and cornered him before he detonated his suicide vest.

Trump praised the dog on Sunday as “beautiful,” but military officials said any information about it, including its name, was secret.

“It’s classified, we’re protecting the dog’s identity,” said Milley.

The dog had been “slightly wounded and is fully recovering,” he said.

US will not police Syria

On Monday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman offered US President Donald Trump his congratulations on the raid.

“The Crown Prince congratulated the President on the United States successful mission to bring ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to justice,” the White House said in a statement.

US officials said Baghdadi’s death would not end the conflict in Syria, but warned Washington could not be relied on to bring peace to the region.

“Baghdadi’s death will not rid the world of terrorism or end the ongoing conflict in Syria,” said Esper.

“The security situation in Syria remains complex,” he said, adding: “Acting as a police force out to solve every dispute is not our mission.”

But he said the death of Baghdadi “will certainly send a message to those who would question America’s resolve and provide a warning to terrorists who think they can hide.”In this article: Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiISIS

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