The legal fireworks in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and his party against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last February 23 general election before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja is getting more intense by the day .
After the said election, Atiku and PDP had through their team of lawyers headed by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, (SAN) filed a joint petition challenging massive irregularity in the conduct of the election. It was the contention of the petitioners that they won the election, based on the results transmitted to the INEC server electronically.
The electoral body, however, denied the using of server for the election even as the petitioners had indicated in their petition to call 400 witnesses to testify against the election.
However, so far, the petitioners have been able to call about 36 witnesses. The Petitioners’ Witness 2, Peter Uzioma Obi last Monday while giving evidence confirmed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) transmitted the result of the February 23 presidential election electronically.
Obi, however, told the tribunal that it will be wrong to say the results of the presidential election were not transmitted electronically. He told the tribunal that he functioned as Registration Area Technician at a ward level in Rivers State during the election and stated that the Independent National Electoral Commission trained him and others to transmit the results of the poll.
“You are not supposed to transmit results because you are not a presiding officer,” INEC counsel asked, to which Obi said: “You are wrong Sir. INEC trained us to transmit results. I was not a presiding officer. I was not a polling agent. I was a registration area technician appointed by INEC. I was trained by INEC.”
Being cross-examined by Buhari’s Counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Obi said he was not aware of the guidelines used by the INEC for the presidential election, but noted that there was a specific guidelines booklet issued for his roles as a RATECH. “I was a RATECH in charge of the use of card reader,” he said.
Under cross examination by APC’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Obi said the lawyer was not entirely correct to say that it was the duty of the Presiding Officer “to do accreditation, verification authentication, and collation at the Poling Units.”
“You are not entirely correct Sir, because we were told at the training that the Assistant Polling Officer 1, was in charge of accreditation. I did not serve as APO1 and I did not serve as the Presiding Officer,” he stated.
Similarly, Petitioners Witness 5, Mohammed Tata who served as an agent of PDP in Jigawa State alleged before the tribunal that he was compelled under duress to sign result of the presidential election in his polling unit.
The witness equally told the tribunal that he was threatened to either sign a copy of the result or have his name removed as a beneficiary in the N-Power scheme. Under cross examination by INEC counsel, Usman, Tata said: “I was harassed and intimidated to sign the result sheet under duress. I was told that if I refuse to sign, my name will be removed from the N-Power Program.”
When asked if he was dissatisfied that President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC scored over 700 votes in his polling unit, the witness said: “There was no score because there was no election.
“I am a Muslim. I believe in destiny and what God decides will happen. Whether PDP wins or the APC does, I don’t have a problem with that. All I want is that I need justice in my country. I don’t care whether my party won or lost, but I am not happy about what happened.”
Furthermore, Petitioners Witness 1, Buba Galadima, who is a former ally of Buhari, told the Tribunal that he fell out with the President because of injustice in his administration and not because he was not appointed a minister.
In addition to injustice, Galadima said that lack of inclusiveness and failure of the administration to secure Nigeria, also added to why he left the camp of the President. Galadima made the submissions under cross-examination, after he had adopted his statement on oath.
Olanipekun: “You fell out with the 2nd respondent (Buhari) because he did not make you a minister in 2015.”
Galadima: “No. You should know that I fought all the previous governments since 1999 because of injustice.We made good promises to Nigerians, including justice, inclusiveness, and to secure the country, which he has failed to do. It has always being part of my characteristics to fight injustice. I supported Buhari in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 election cycles until the 2019 election.”
However, while being cross-examined by Fagbemi, Galadima said he was aware that there was no registered party called the Reformed APC, but maintained that he was still the chairman of the group.
Petitioners Witness 8 on Tuesday, however, told the tribunal that the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar won the said election in Katsina State. The witness, who is the State Chairman of the PDP in Katsina, Salisu Maijigiri, said that Atiku defeated President Muhammadu Buhari, in the state.
Maijigiri told the tribunal that he served as the party’s collation agent in the state for the presidential election in Katsina State. Under cross-examination, by respondents’ counsel, Maijigiri said contrary to the results declared by the INEC, the results collated by his party in the state showed that APC polled 872,000 while PDP scored 905,000.
Meanwhile, the results INEC declared for the state, showed that PDP polled 160,203 votes while the APC polled 1,505,633. But contradicting INEC’s results, Maijigiri said: ”We (PDP) are the one who won the election not APC. APC scored 872,000 and PDP scored, 905,000. These are our own results, we collated in our state not the ones from the server.”
Petitioners Witness 17, Uchena Umeh said in his own testimony to the Tribunal that as an Assistant Presiding Officer 1 during the last presidential election in Gwarinpa, Abuja, he transmitted the results of the poll to INEC’s server.
Under cross-examination by Buhari’s counsel, Abubakar Mahmud (SAN), Umeh said he was on the day before the election given the code with which he will use transmit the results of the poll at his polling unit to INEC server.
He said: “In the course of the training, they told us there was an INEC server. A code was given to us and they told us that only APO I should know the code.”
In furtherance of the hearing, Prosecution Witness 23 told the tribunal that all the result sheets in Borno State was mutilated to favour Buhari and his party. The witness. who was collation agent for the PDP, Nicholas Msheliza, added that virtually all the result sheets from the various local governments in the state were mutilated.
He equally stated that there was zero accreditation of voters in over 200 polling units out of the 3,933 statutory polling units in the state. He further told the tribunal that there were a total of 5,078 voting points, including the polling units. Msheliza also said the total votes of 911, 786 declared by INEC was well over the accredited voters across the state.
However, Prosecution Witness 21, Jafaru Usman, who served as the PDP local government collation agent for Zaria, Kaduna State, in witness told the Tribunal that results in his area were rigged in favour of the APC. But the witness, who is a lawyer, said he signed the Form EC8C, the local government area result sheets, not as authentication of what was contained in it but as a mere witness.
Under cross-examination, Usman said the polling unit results contained in Forms EC8A ought to be transmitted to the ward result sheets, Forms EC8B, and then transmitted to Form EC8C, which is the local government result sheet, but that was not the case in his area.
“The correct results were not transmitted,” Usman said. But when asked if he signed the Form EC8C, he said: “I signed in line with the provision of the Electoral Act. I signed it but I did not authenticate what was contained in it. I only signed as a witness in line with the Electoral Act. What I signed was not a contract. All those who were in attendance were required to sign in line with Electoral Act.”
Asked if any of those who perpetrated the rigging were convicted in court, he said: “I made complaints, they did nothing.”
Prosecution Witness 24, John Makama, who served as the PDP collation agent in Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State in his own testimony said the results of the poll in the stronghold of his party were cancelled by INEC officials.
He alleged in his evidence-in-chief that the election in the area was marred by illegal cancellation of votes. Under cross-examination by the respondents’ counsel, Makama said the results were cancelled in his presence at the local government collation centre by the INEC’s local government collation officer and not at the polling units where the election took place.
He said of the 11 wards in Sanga Local Government Area, the APC was only strong in three. Still under cross examination, Makama could not find an answer when told that cancellation of results in the council area was not part of the case presented by the petitioners in their petition..
Meanwhile, one of the twist, in the case was an attack on the petitioners’ witnesses by unknown gun-men on their way to Abuja from Zamfara State. The witnesses were billed to testify in the ongoing hearing of the petition jointly filed by Atiku and PDP against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In his own evidence, Olufemi Ogunride, who was ad-hoc staff of INEC during the election confirmed to the tribunal that he along with other Assistant Presiding Officers transmitted election results into the server of INEC using the smart card reader.
The witness told the tribunal that two hours to the election, Assistant Presiding Officers were assembled and trained by a consultant to INEC on how to transmit election results into the INEC server with the smart card reader.
Ogunride, who said that he received his own training on how to transmit election results to server in Abuja, admitted that he personally transmitted results provided by the Presiding Officers into INEC’s server.
Cross examined by counsel to APC, Dr Muiz Banire (SAN), the witness confirmed that INEC guidelines and regulations were released to him and others. In his own evidence, Peter Sabo from Yobe State told the tribunal that both Buhari and APC used the security challenges in the state to perpetrate election fraud.
The witness alleged that voters were mobilised to selected areas to cast their votes instead of their polling units and under the guise by APC of securing their lives. Sabo further alleged that PDP agents were chased away at the selected voting points after which ballot papers were freely handed over to APC agents to cast unlawful votes.
He said that he refused to sign result sheet because the ballot papers used for the purported election were for APC only without a single void votes. Sabo further testified that out of anger he wrote a petition to the DSS, Police and civil defense but that up till now nothing had been done.
In his own evidence Hassan Maisarafa, who named some state government officials that perpetrated alleged election fraud, claimed that voters in Yobe were bought over with huge sums to sway them to the side of the APC.
However, when hearing resumed last Monday, the petitioners played a video recording at the Tribunal where a Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini admitted that the electoral body would transmit election results with the use of smart card reader to the INEC central server.
The Petitioners had tendered the 48 video recordings through their PW 40, who was also one of their star witness, Segun Showumi, one of the media aides to the PDP presidential candidate.
The videos played, however, showed Mr. Mike Iginni, granted on Sunday Politics programme of Channels Television when he said the results of the election would be transmitted to INEC’s server.
Another one showed Army officials, on Channels TV, denying Buhari’s claim that his West African School Certificate was with the Army. The third one showed INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Channels TV, meeting with members of Computer Professionals and Practitioners in Nigeria, and expressing hope that electronic transmission would be deployed for the 2019 general election.
On the contrary, President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC tendered a video before the Tribunal to counter the claims of the Petitioners that INEC transmitted election result to an electronic server. The video which was Channels Television recording of INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu admitted by the presidential tribunal, however, discredited the allegation that results of the February 23 general election were transmitted to the commission’s central server.
A day after that, the Tribunal ordered Prof Mamud Yakubu and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Zamfara State to appear before it to clarify some issues in the ongoing petition filed the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar and his party challenging the election .
The duo had been earlier subpoenaed by the Tribunal for presentation of some documents but refused to honour the summon. However, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba, issued the order following complaints by the Petitioners that their petition against the election of President Buhari was been sabotaged by the INEC Chief following his refusal to appear before the Tribunal to tender some unnamed documents.
Atiku through his counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) had complained to the Tribunal that Yakubu and INEC Commissioner in Zamfara have been frustrating him in the 10 days hearing notice given to him by the Tribunal to substantiate his allegations and claims in his petition jointly filed with the PDP.
Responding, counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), told the tribunal that he was not aware of the subpoena on Yakubu but that of the Zamfara REC has been complied with, adding that they are waiting for the petitioners to pay the normal fee and collect the said documents.
But in a short ruling, Presiding Justice of the five-man panel, held that orders of court are sacrosanct and must be obeyed. However, Yakubu failed to appear before the Tribunal on Thursday as summoned, but sent a letter to the Tribunal along the said subpoenaed documents.
Uche, while commending Usman for the efforts, however, requested for a copy of the letter to enable him ascertain if the documents were complete and same as the ones requested for.
The Tribunal had consequently adjourned till July 29 for the respondents to open defense.
Meanwhile, in his testimony, Petitioners’ Witness 62, Osita Chidoka, who served as PDP collation agent at the National Collation Centre for the February 23, 2019 presidential election, told the Tribunal that he had never seen INEC server.
He, however, added that Yakubu, consistently told them about the server and also acknowledged its existence during the collation of the presidential election. Under cross examination by INEC counsel, Yunus Ustaz (SAN), the witness said that: “I have not seen the server but INEC consistently told us of the server and the INEC Chairman at the national collation of results of the election acknowledged the existence of the server.”
He further admitted that he was not born as at 1947 when President Buhari was born and to that effect he could not biologically state categorically the age of the President. There was, however, a mild drama when counsel to Buhari, Chief Olanipekun (SAN) accused Petitioners’ Witness 60, Joseph Gbenga, of issuing a report which conflicted with the claim of the petitioners in their petition challenging the outcome of the election.
Olanipekun said the witness in his report awarded a margin of victory which the petitioners never claimed in their petition.
He added that while the petitioners conceded defeat in Katsina State, the witness in his report of analysis of the results gave victory to the petitioners. The witness who is an Industrial Chemistry graduate from the University of Ilorin, who described himself as a Database Analyst and Designer, under cross-examination by the respondents’ lawyers, said he was engaged by the petitioners to analyse the results of the presidential poll in 11 out of the 36 states of the federation.
The witness said he was not aware the petitioners conceded defeat in eight out of the 11 states which their presidential election results he analysed in his report. He equally added that he was unmindful of who won or lost in the 11 states, in order to be able to do a professional and unbiased job.
He said he had not gone through the pleadings contained in the petitioners’ petition. Olanipekun also asked: “But are you aware that you have given them a margin of win in 11 states that is more than what they are claiming in the 36 states excluding the FCT?”
Responding, the witness said: “I am not aware. I worked on documents provided for me.” Asked, again, he said he was not aware that the petitioners conceded defeat in Katsina State.
But by your analysis you gave them victory,” Buhari’s counsel said.
Asked, the witness said he had been receiving trainings in data analysis but had not been certified. He, however, said he had previously been engaged by the World Health Organisations (WHHO), among other organisations.
He confirmed that he was engaged to do analysis of results of the election in Yobe State and that was the first he ever took up in respect of elections before his engagement for the presidential election.
Answering questions from the APC counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the witness said the job he did was not something any literate person could do as suggested by the lawyer. The witness also said he was aware that hacking of websites was a global phenomenon.
Earlier, the Petitioners told the tribunal that they had 1,353 additional result sheets to tender before the tribunal. Uche (SAN) added that the result sheets include the polling unit results (form EC8A) and results from ward collation centres (form EC8B). As the petitioner closed the case Friday, the show seems set for the defendants to open their defence in the next adjournment