Alex Enumah in Abuja
Witnesses called by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in his petition against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday gave evidence to support their allegations that the February 23 presidential election was rigged in Kaduna and Borno States in favour of the incumbent.
The witnesses alleged that agents of the All Progressives Congress (APC) connived with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials to falsify figures, mostly at the local government and state levels.
According to the witnesses, wrong scores were fraudulently credited by INEC officials to Buhari and APC, while scores of PDP and Atiku were deducted in some places.
They also told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal hearing Atiku’s petition that thugs of the APC in connivance with security agents chased agents of the petitioners away for INEC to carry out the alleged manipulation of the results.
They said in some instances where results submitted from the polling units and wards did not tally, the returning officer had to ask them to go back and correct it, leading to a lot of mutilation and cancellation in most of the results sheets.
Some of the witnesses said that while the security officials had ignored the complaints about the anomalies surrounding the conduct of the election, INEC officials told them to take their complaints and whatever grievances they have to the election tribunal.
Based on the above, the witnesses said they refused to sign copies of the results sheets, with the exception of Jafaru Ibrahim, who said he signed to “prove that he witnessed the anomalies.”
Ibrahim, who claimed to be an agent of the petitioners at the local government level in Kaduna State, alleged that in spite of restriction on movement and the presence of security operatives, there were large movements of people in buses from one location to another to vote for the APC.
Ibrahim said at a point, they had to chase some of the imported voters from some areas in Zaria area of Kaduna State.
He told the tribunal that he witnessed an instance of vote switching at the local government collation centre.
Another witness from Kaduna State, Major Yahaya Sikko, earlier in his evidence, had told the tribunal that wrong figures were accredited to Buhari and APC making him to refuse to sign the result sheet as required by law.
He told the tribunal that the abnormalities affected the results released by the electoral umpire.
The witness said in his presence results were doctored by APC agents with the full backing of security personnel.
Another witness from Kaduna, AbdulRaman Usman, who corroborated the claims of over voting and allocation of results to parties in Kaduna State, said he could not sign Form EC8A because the form was not made available to the agents of the petitioners as required by law.
In his own evidence, the Borno State Collation Officer, Nicholas Msheila, said he rejected most results in the 27 local government areas in the state because they were fraudulent.
Though the witness said the results declared by INEC exceeded the number of accredited voters, he could not give the figure of the accredited voters.
Msheila told the five-member tribunal that in all the results tendered in the state, there was evidence of mistake.
“The state collation officer would ask them to go back and reconcile results before returning,” he added.
Also testifying, Adams Ali Sanni admitted that he did not sign results sheets as agents of the petitioners because results were altered in his presence while votes cast for Atiku and PDP were reduced also in his presence.
He alleged that apart from unlawful cancellation of results, PDP agents were chased away by thugs of the APC to allow free falsification of results in favour of Buhari.
A witness from Bauchi State, Yau Yusuf, in attesting to claim of rigging, harassment and intimidation of voters, said election results were torn by a particular agent of the APC in the presence of INEC officials at INEC headquarters in Dass Local Government Area, yet nothing was done.
He added that the results announced by INEC were a reproduced copy while the police took the torn copy with a promise to prosecute the perpetrator.
All the witnesses from Borno stated that the results declared by INEC in Borno State could not have been true because of the issue of insurgency and bomb blast that prevented many people from casting their votes.
At the end of cross-examination of the 28 witnesses called by the petitioners yesterday, the presiding justice of the five-member panel, Justice Mohammed Garba, adjourned till today for further hearing.