Hearing of the petition filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the election was brought to a halt yesterday, following report of violent attack on their witnesses by suspected bandits.
The Atiku/PDP witnesses, billed to give evidence in support of alleged irregularities, rigging and sponsored violence were said to have been attacked at a location in Zamfara State on their way to Abuja to give evidence in Atiku and PDP’s petition.
At yesterday’s proceedings, the petitioners had called in eight witnesses in the morning session, who all testified in one way or another of various forms and degrees of malpractices they witnessed during the conduct of the February 23 presidential election that returned President Buhari for a second term in office.
But as the tribunal was about to proceed on its usual one hour break from 1 – 2pm, Lead Counsel to the petitioners, Dr. Levy Uzoukwu SAN, informed the tribunal that he received several phone calls from the witnesses that they were attacked on their way to Abuja.
Uzoukwu said with the development, it would be difficult to continue with the day’s proceedings.
The petitioners had said they would be calling about four hundred witnesses to prove their claims that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in collaboration with the All Progressives Congress (APC) rigged the election in favour of President Buhari.
Following agreement by all parties in the petition, the five man panel, headed by Justice Mohammed Garba had allotted 10 days to the petitioners to call in their witnesses to testify in the petition.
Before yesterday’s hearing, the petitioners had already called in 28 witnesses from six states in addition to plethora of documents tendered as exhibits in support of their case.
At yesterday’s hearing, eight witnesses, mainly from Borno and Yobe states, gave evidence of how election results were transmitted into the server of INEC through a sort code provided by the electoral body.
They further highlighted incidents of electoral malpractice, which they claimed marred the February 23 poll.
In his own evidence, Olufemi Ogunride, who was an 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 smart card reader.
Under cross examination by counsel to APC, Dr. Muiz Banire SAN, the witness confirmed that INEC guidelines and regulations were released to him and others.
The witness also 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.
The PDP also confirmed the attack on the witnesses of Atiku on its verified Twitter page, yesterday.
“Information reaching us is to the effect that, witnesses that were supposed to testify at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal for the PDP today were attacked by unknown gunmen.
“Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, the lead counsel for the PDP and Atiku/Obi at the Tribunal informed the court that the witnesses were attacked on their way from their various destinations as they were coming to the court to testify against the fraud in the last February 23, 2019 elections.
“In view of the above information, the trial Judge, Justice Mohammed Garba has adjourned hearing on the PDP and Atiku Peter Obi Petition to Monday, the 15th of July 2019.”
Appeal Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Buhari’s Qualification
Meanwhile, the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed a suit challenging the qualification of President Muhammadu Buhari for the 2019 presidential election.
The appellate court in a judgement delivered, held that the suit has been cut up by the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution which stipulates a 14 days time period within which an election matter must be filed.
The Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris held that the singular fact that the suit was filed outside the 14 days provided by the law robbed the court of jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The suit was accordingly dismissed for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Though the appellate court agreed with the trial court that the suit was statute barred having been filed out of time, it however disagreed with the trial court on the date the cause of action took place.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed had in his judgment held that the cause of action took place on September 28, 2018 when the APC held its primary election to select candidate of the party in the 2019 general election.
But the appellate court however held that the cause of action took place on October 18, 2018, the date Buhari submitted his form 001 to INEC for the purpose of clearance for the presidential election.
Earlier, the three man panel of the justices of the Court of Appeal had dismissed the suit based on the preliminary objection filed by the APC’s lawyer challenging the jurisdiction of the suit on the grounds that it is incompetent.