Court admits final election results in Obi’s petition
Atiku’s subpoenaed witnesses unsettle INEC, Tinubu’s lawyers
BY ANDREW OROLUA
In his determination to establish his petition seeking nullification of President Bola Tinubu election, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi on Wednesday tendered the collated final result of February 25 Presidential election before the Presidential Election Petition Court PEPC.
The Court admitted the final result in evidence without any objection from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Bola Tinubu, Kashim Shetima and the All Progressives Congress (APC) both of whom had since the commencement of hearing opposed any document tendered by the petitioner.
Due to consistency in their objections to documents, Mike Igbokwe SAN, who handled President Tinubu case yesterday on behalf of the lead counsel Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN initially objected to the tendering of final result of the election before he was quickly reminded that it was the result that gave Tinubu victory.
Apart from not opposing the final presidential election results contained in form EC8DA, the four respondents did not also oppose deeming the vital documents as being read in the open Court.
Obi and the Labour Party LP through their lawyer, Professor Paul Ananaba, SAN, tendered serial results from polling Units results, Ward Collation Centre results, Local government Areas results and State results that were duly certified by the electoral body to establish their petition against Tinubu’s election. But all the documents except the final result were objected to by INEC who authored them.
Surprisingly however, while the respondents vehemently opposed admission of collated election results from Ward Level, Local Government level, States level, they accepted tendering the final result without any objections.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, the collated results in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory FCT contained in forms EC8D used by the electoral body was also tendered and admitted as exhibits.
Also at the PEPC hearing his petition against Tinubu, Obi who was physically present in the court to witness proceedings had shifted his battle from Wards collated election results to Local Government Collated Election Results, States collated results before tendering the final result as exhibits in aid of his petition.
The collated results at the Local Government Levels are contained in forms EC8C used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the February 25 presidential poll.
The 13 States where the Ward collated results were tendered and admitted as exhibits are Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Lagos, Niger and Ondo.
The other states are: Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto and Ekiti and Delta.
Obi tendered collated results in 8 local government areas of Bayelsa, 23 in Benue, 18 in Cross River,10 in Ebonyi, 18 in Edo, 20 in Lagos and 25 in Niger State.
Others are 18 in Ondo, 33 in Oyo, 23 in Rivers, 23 in Sokoto, 16 in Ekiti and 25 in Delta.
Although INEC, Tinubu, Kashim Shetima and the All Progressives Congress (APC) who are respondents in the petition signified their objections against admission of the collated results, Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani admitted them as exhibits in favour of Obi and the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, Presiding Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani has fixed June 8 for continuation of hearing in the petition.
Addressing newsmen later, Obi’s counsel, Professor Paul Ananaba explained that the coast is now clear for his clients to begin to call witnesses to testify to establish the petition.
The professor of law revealed that the witnesses will speak through the admitted documents one after the other to show to the Court where electoral malpractices were carried out during the February 25 presidential election.
“I can assure you and indeed the whole Nigerians that our witnesses in the evidence they would profer would give life to the petition and the whole thing, would be interesting” he said.
In another development, the decision of the former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku to bring subpoenaed witnesses into the hearing of his petition on Wednesday unsettled the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) whose objections prevented the witness from testifying.
Atiku, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the disputed February 25 presidential election had called his first subpoenaed witness at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPEC) to tender some sensitive documents but the move was vehemently opposed by INEC and Tinubu.
INEC, Tinubu and APC through their lawyers objected to the taking of the evidence of the witness who was said to be an adhoc staff of INEC.
At the resume of Wednesday’s proceedings, lead counsel to the PDP, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, after the admittance of exhibits from 10 local governments in Kogi State, called in one of his listed witnesses who gave evidence on how INEC failed to transmit results real time “as promised”.
Shortly after the end of cross examination of the witness, Hon. Ndubuisi Nwobu from Anambra State, Uche informed the court that the petitioners have three subpoenaed witnesses and went to call the first one, an adhoc staff of INEC.
However, immediately the witness entered the witness box and barely before he could take his oath, counsel to INEC, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, rose in objection to the hearing of the evidence of the witness.
He informed the court that he was only served this morning with the statement of the witness and as such would have to study the statement in order to do a thorough cross examination.
His position was shared by Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN and APC’s lawyer, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who added that he was only served barely 20 minutes ago with the statement and has not seen what it contains.
Responding, Uche argued that with a subpoenaed witness, they were not supposed to front-load his statement to the respondents, adding that there was nothing strange in the statement of the witness to warrant an adjournment.
Uche pleaded with the court to take at least one of the subpoenaed witnesses so as to judiciously make use of the time allotted it because the adjournment would eat into their allotted time.
Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, while trying to be considerate, proposed standing down trial for 30 minutes to enable respondents look at the documents and thereby cross examine the first subpoenaed witness.
INEC, however insisted that the witness cannot be taking and should not be taken because the witness “is said to be an adhoc staff of the Commission” and as such he would have to go and look at INEC’s records to enable him confirm the status of the witness and prepare adequately.
Following the respondents insistence, Uche urged the court to adjourn till tomorrow for the calling of the three subpoenaed witnesses.
Earlier in his evidence, Nwobu told the Court that election went smoothly in most polling units he visited including where he cast his vote but “magic started happening” at the Ward Collation Centers.
According to him, results of the election were entered into the forms EC8A at the polling units but were not transmitted real time into the IReV because of the failure of the BVAS machines.
He told the panel that but for his intervention, some staff of INEC would have been attacked due to their inability to upload results real time.
“There was no real time transmission of results as we were promised by INEC”, he said.
Meanwhile, further hearing into the petition has been shifted till June 8.