Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has admitted 48 video compact discs (VCDs) tendered by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, as evidence in his Petition against the return of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The five man panel led by Justice Mohammed Garba in admitting the documents dismissed the objections raised by all the respondents on the grounds that the documents sought to be tendered were in line with the agreement reached by parties and adopted by the tribunal.
Atiku and his party the PDP are alleging that the February 23 presidential poll was characterised by wide spread rigging, violence and substantial non compliance with the Electoral Act.
They have been calling witnesses from various states particularly from the northern part of the country where they are alleging most of the abnormalities took place.
After calling three witnesses at the resumed hearing on Monday, Atiku sought to tender 48 video recording of alleged Irregularities during the conduct of the February 23 poll.
Atiku and PDP also applied to the tribunal to play the video recording in the courtroom as part of efforts to substantiate their allegations of massive rigging during the poll.
Immediately Atiku’s counsel, Chris Uche SAN, announced his plan to tender the video discs and play some of them through one of its witnesses Segun Showunmi, counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman SAN, countered the decision and vehemently objected to the request.
Usman said that INEC was not in support and will not support any bid by Atiku and PDP to play the video recording for the tribunal to see and to admit same.
He insisted that the video CDs were not front loaded by the petitioners and that INEC which conducted the election had been ambushed, adding that only documents front loaded will be allowed to be admitted.
Buhari and APC through their respective counsel, associated themselves with INEC that the video recording must not be played or admitted so as not to allow the petitioners to amend their petition.
They cited several legal authorities to justify their position on why the video recording should not be played and admitted.
However, Atiku’s lawyer, who had earlier led three other witnesses in their evidence in Chief drew the attention of the tribunal to the pre-hearing report where they all consented that objections to documents admission can only be made at the final address stage.
Uche cited Supreme Court decisions for consideration of the tribunal to the effect that both front loaded and listed documents including video CDs can be admitted and played in the courtroom.
Atiku’s lawyer specifically drew the attention of the tribunal to page 143 of the petition where several items including video and audio recording relating to the February 23 poll were pleaded by the two petitioners to establish their allegations against Buhari’s election.
Although the tribunal chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, drew the attention of INEC, Buhari and APC to their joint agreement with the petitioners to oppose admission of documents at the final address stage, the three respondents however stood their grounds in their vehement objection to the video show.
Dismissing the objection of the respondents, Justice Garba reminded the parties of the agreement they freely entered, adding that once agreement is reached, it becomes binding on all.
He stressed that no party can deviate from it or adopt a position that is in conflict or breach of the terms of the agreement.
He said in line with the agreement parties have tendered various documents, and objections indicated with reasons to the objections defferred till the final address stage, adding that no particular document was excluded from being tendered from the bar.
“Cases sighted are not material at this stage, the documents are admitted in evidence”, the tribunal held.
Earlier, three witnesses, Babagana Kukawa, Hon. Abana Pogu and Suleiman Mohammed Bulama from Borno and Yobe states had testified that Buhari and APC on the election day used soldiers to attack and injure PDP agents.
The witnesses also alleged that Village and District Heads were also used to intimidate and threaten voters to vote for Buhari or risk being ejected from their farmlands.