Godwin Tsa, Abuja
After weeks of legal filibustering, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, kickstarted its case in earnest with the presentation of six witnesses at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Abuja, yesterday.
PDP and its presidential candidate had approached the tribunal to challenge the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 poll.
PDP and Atiku have the next nine days to establish their case. Hearing continues today at the tribunal.
Former spokesperson for the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Buba Galadima, who claimed he was still a member of the ruling party led five others to testify against the APC and President Buhari.
Mr. Adejuyitan Olalekan, a Presiding Officer during the election, told the tribunal that he personally transmitted the results collated at his polling unit during the election to the server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Olalekan, who took the witness stand as the petitioners’ third witness at the instance of the PDP and Atiku, was earlier led by the petitioners’ lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), to adopt his witness statement on oath as his evidence-in-chief.
Under cross-examination by Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Olalekan, who said he was a lecturer at African Community of Inquiry College of Education in Enugu State, maintained that he personally transmitted the collated results at his polling unit.
“I did it myself as the Presiding Officer. I transmitted through the code provided by INEC,” he said.
But when asked by INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), Olalekan said he did not have the name or the number of the server.
During cross examination by APC’s lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), Olalekan maintained that “without the code, you cannot make any transmission of results.”
But asked if he attached the code with which he claimed to have transmitted the collated results to his witness statement on oath, he said he did not but had it on his phone.
While being cross-examined by Olanipekun, the witness maintained that all the voters at his polling units voted via card reader as the machine worked perfectly.
He also insisted that INEC did not direct Presiding Officers to allow voters who could not be authenticated by the card reader machine to vote manually with their picture captured.
“The card reader worked for every voter who came to my polling unit,” testified.
Testifying as the fourth witness, an Assistant Presiding Officer (I) during the election, Mr. Adedokun Adeoye, insisted that he transmitted the results of the election to INEC server after collation, though he failed to show the tribunal, which provision of INEC’s manual authorised him to transmit the results of the poll.
Adeoye was led by the petitioners’ lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), to adopt his witness statement on oath as his evidence-in-chief.
Chief Olanipekun, counsel to Buhari confronted the witness with the claim that it was the duty of the presiding officer “to transmit the results in the necessary form to INEC” and not the APO I’s duty.
The witness insisted that it was APO I’s duty to transmit the results.
But when shown the guidelines issued by INEC to point out where it was stated as part of the duty of APO I to transmit results, Adoye could not point out the part.
Regardless, in his testimony, Mr. Mohammed Tata alleged that he was compelled under duress to sign result of the presidential election in his polling unit.
Under cross examination by counsel to the INEC, the witness said: “I was harassed and intimidated to sign the result sheet under duress. I was told that if I refused to sign, my name will be removed from the N-Power Program.”
Asked if he was dissatisfied that President Buhari and the APC scored over 700 votes in his polling unit, the witness said: “There was no score because there was no election.”
Tata who moved the court to roar in laughter in the witness box said: “I am a Muslim. I believe in destiny and what God decides will happen. Whether PDP win or the APC, 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’m not happy about what happened.”
Asked how many parties participated in the election in his polling unit, Mr. Tata said: “I don’t know because there was no election”.
Asked if he was given a copy of the result, he said: “No I was not given because there was no peace.”
He decried the fact that though he “followed due process” by reporting how he was harassed to sign the result, the culprits were neither arrested nor prosecuted.
Asked by APC’s lawyer why he did not mention names if those that harassed him in his statement on oath, the witness said it was for security reasons.
“I am still working with the N-Power because I signed the result. It is because I did what they wanted me to do”, he said.
Mustapha Bello, who testified as the sixth witness told the tribunal that he did not signed the result sheet from his polling unit as a PDP agent because there was over-voting as the number of votes cast were more than the accredited voters.
Another witness, Mr. Peter Uzioma Obi, also told the tribunal that he personally transmitted electronically, results of the presidential election into INEC server.
Obi who testified as the second witness said it would, therefore, be wrong to say that the results of the election were not transmitted electronically.
The witness who said he participated in the conduct of the disputed presidential election at a ward level in Rivers State, said the INEC trained him and others to transmit the results of the poll.
Obi, who earlier adopted his witness statement on oath, which he deposed to on April 26, as his evidence-in-chief, said this while fielding questions from INEC’s lawyer, Usman (SAN), under cross-examination.
“You’re not supposed to transmit results because you are not a presiding officer,” Usman asked.
Responding, Obi said: “You’re 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.”
Answering questions from Buhari’s lawyer, he said he was not aware of the guidelines used by the INEC for the presidential election, but added 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 he operated at the ward level with the local government technician and the state technician as his superiors.
He added that he was not stationed at any polling unit during the election but visited the ones where his attention was needed. He said he visited seven polling units in the course of the election.
Earlier, Galadima who was ushered into the witness by the lead counsel to Atiku and PDP, Dr. Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), adopted his witness statement on oath deposed to on March 18, 2019.
He was, thereafter, cross-examined by the lead counsel to INEC, Usman (SAN), Olanipkekun (SAN) for Buhari and Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) for the APC.
Galadima denied claim that he fell out with President Buhari in 2015 because he was not appointed a minister.
Rather, he said he fell out with Buhari because of alleged injustice in his administration, lack of inclusiveness and failure of the administration to secure Nigeria.
“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 been part of my characteristics to fight injustice.”
The politician confirmed that he had supported Buhari in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 election cycles until the 2019. election.
While being cross-examined by Fagbemi, he said he was aware that there is no registered party called the Reformed APC, but maintained that he was still the chairman of the group.
He, however, said he remained a member of the APC.
“I’m still a member of APC. I have not been sacked. We are in court. I don’t want to be subjudice. I’m not a member of PDP, but there was a Memorandum of Understanding with the PDP to produce a God-fearing, good and educated leader.”
Meanwhile, President Buhari, on same day, challenged admissibility of the form containing his bio-data at the presidential tribunal.
This was in the presence of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshimhole and the first Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who attended the proceedings.
Specifically, Buhari had through his lead counsel, Chief Olanipekun (SAN), objected to the admission of his form CF001 which contained his personal data submitted to INEC for February 23, presidential election.
Mr. Olanipekun while objecting to the admission of the form, however, deferred his reason for the objections till the address stage of the petition.
The PDP and Atiku had tendered Buhari’s form as part of efforts to establish their petition on his qualification for the last presidential election.
Apart from the form, Atiku also tendered the final result of the election signed by INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, which the tribunal admitted as exhibit.
Also tendered and admitted as an exhibit were documents containing a total number of voters in the INEC register and the number of collected permanent voters card for the elections.
Atiku’s lead counsel also tendered six newspapers publications and 10 press statements issued by INEC in respect of the election.