The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, on Friday, gave the candidate of Labour Party, LP, Mr. Peter Obi, the nod to tender two videos clips in evidence to support the case he filed to challenge the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
Obi, who is insisting that he won the presidential contest that held on February 25, tendered the video recordings, which were contained in two flash drives, through a member of his legal team, Mr. Jubril Okutekpa, SAN.
The LP candidate had at the resumed proceedings in the case, notified the court that he subpoenaed Channels Television to produce the recordings.
Okutekpa, SAN, told the court that two separate subpoenas, dated May 30 and June 6, were served on the TV station, which he said sent one of its staff members, to tender the requested evidence.
The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel admitted the subpoenas in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-1 and PBH-2.
The court, thereafter, summoned Mr. Lucky Obewo-Isawode, who identified himself as a Senior Reporter/Editor at Channels TV, to mount the witness box.
However, counsel for President Bola Tinubu, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, said he was opposed to the court allowing the witness to either testify or tender any evidence in the matter.
President Tinubu, through his lawyer, maintained that the witness was not competent to testify in the matter since his written statement was not front-loaded at the time the petition was filed.
Relying on Paragraph 4 (5) and (6) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022, Tinubu’s lawyer argued that the law was clear that petition must be filed within 21 days after the declaration of result of an election.
He contended that the petitioners ought to have attached all the necessary documents as well as the list of witnesses they would call in support of their case, at the time the petition was filed.
“A petition which fails to comply shall not be accepted, that is what the law says. My lords, it was after the proceeding started today that the statement of this witness was served on us.
“This is over three months after the declaration of the result of the election was made.
“This witness was not listed by the petitioners and his statement was not attached to the petition. To that extent, he is not a competent witness who can testify before this court,” President Tinubu’s lawyer insisted.
Citing plethora of decided case laws, Chief Olujinmi, SAN, argued that Obi and LP were aware that they would rely on video recordings, as at the time they filed the petition.
Adopting the submissions of President Tinubu’s counsel, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, through its own lawyer, Mr. Kemi Pinhero, SAN, argued that Obi and LP should have listed the proposed evidence in their petition.
However, counsel for the petitioners, Okutepa, SAN, contended that the subpoena was an order of court which his clients had no command over.
“My lords, my submission is that a subpoenaed witness is competent to testify in this matter,” Okutepa , SAN, added, even as he relied on Paragraph 41 (5) and (6) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act.
Despite the objections, the panel, admitted the two flash drives in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-3 and PBH-4.
Meanwhile, when counsel for the petitioners applied for contents of the flash drives to be played in the open court, President Tinubu’s lawyer, again, opposed.
He argued that his client was not served with any copy of the flash drive.
“This case is not hide and seek. We are entitled to be served with a copy so that we can know the content and be able to prepare. Until we are served, we will oppose allowing it to be played.
“The material, having not been served on us earlier, it will deprive the 2nd and 3rd Respondents (President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima) of their right to fair hearing.
“We have not been able to prepare against it,” Tinubu’s lawyer added.
However, INEC’s lawyer, Pinhero, SAN, said he saw no reason why the clips should not be played since the Exhibits were already before the court.
On its part, counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Solomon Umoh, SAN, said it would amount to an ambush for the petitioners to be allowed to play the content of the flash drives without first serving same on the Respondents.
Ruling on the matter, head of the panel, Justice Tsammani, held that the Respondents would not be prejudiced if the video clips are played in the open court.
He, however, noted that it was already late in the day.
Consequently, the panel adjourned the matter till Saturday for the video clips to be played in the open court.
Meanwhile, the first flash drive, contained a press interview that the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu granted prior to the general elections, where he assured that results of the election would be electronically transmitted in real time.
The second flash drive was equally a press conference by a National Commissioner of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, who equally restated the commitment of the Commission to transmit the election results.