•Allege widespread irregularities
Alex Enumah in Abuja
Hearing in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his party against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari continued yesterday with more witnesses of the former vice president alleging widespread irregularities during the February 23, 2019 poll.
They cited the non-use of card reader in most places, non-accreditation of voters, as well as intimidation of voters and opposition parties’ agents as some of the anomalies that characterised the presidential election.
All the 13 witnesses called by the petitioners at yesterday’s proceedings of the tribunal in Abuja, in their individual testimonies, corroborated allegations of the use of thugs to cause mayhem, non-accreditation of voters, over-voting, cancellations and alteration of election results, contained in Atiku and PDP’s petition.
Witnesses, particularly kinsmen of Buhari, in their evidence, said going by votes collated from all levels in the Katsina State, the PDP and not APC won the presidential poll in the president’s home state.
Salisu Maijigiri, who is the chairman of Katsina State PDP, told the tribunal that at the end of collation of results by his party in the state, the PDP scored 905,000 as against the 872,000 scored by the APC.
While adopting his witness statement on oath, he said the election was characterised by widespread irregularities, adding that voting in his unit was done without accreditation.
He made the disclosures while responding to a question by Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), on whether he voted at the election.
“I was not accredited, I was just given ballot papers to go and vote,” he said.
He also alleged that his party’s agents were chased away while INEC-trained staff were replaced by untrained staff provided by the APC and Buhari. However, when asked to produce the list of the swapped staff, he said he did not have it.
Another witness also from Katsina State, Salisu Funtua, alleged over-voting in the presidential poll, saying that the card reader were abandoned, and election cancelled in several places due to the failure of the card reader.
He said there were instances he had to draw the attention of the presiding officer to the anomalies, particularly over voting and neglect of card reader, leading to the cancellation of results from such units.
Funtua told the tribunal that Buhari did not win in Katsina State but rather the scores announced by INEC were allotted to the PDP and APC.
Under cross-examination by Olanipekun, the witness maintained that the election was not free or fair because of over-voting and other malpractices.
Another witness, Abdulsalam Idris, also told the tribunal that Atiku and PDP never conceded defeat to Buhari and APC because the February 23 election could not be called an election in the full meaning of democracy.
One of the witnesses, Aliu Umar Ustas, who was a local government collation officer for Atiku, accused the police of conniving with APC members to rig the election.
Under cross-examination by counsel to APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the witness said the PDP collated detailed result and that the results were being kept with the party.
In his own evidence, Tanko Birchi, a lawyer and businessman, admitted that he was not present in all polling units but received both oral and written complaints of irregularities during the conduct of the presidential poll in Niger State where he supervised.
Responding to a question from the APC lawyer, the witness said he heard that Buhari was a general in the Nigerian Army and that he was in primary school between 1983 and 1985, when Buhari was a military president.
Proceedings in the petition have been adjourned till tomorrow to enable the petitioners to call more witnesses.
With the 13 called yesterday, the petitioners have so far called 19 out of the 400 witnesses lined up to testify before the tribunal.