•Witnesses allege attacks on PDP agents, intimidation of voters in Borno, Yobe
Alex Enumah in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday failed in their bids to stop the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, from tendering video compact discs (VCDs) as evidence to prove their petition that the president did not lawfully win the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, dismissed their objections and admitted as exhibits 48 VCDs tendered by the petitioners.
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 the parties and adopted by the tribunal.
Buhari, INEC and APC counsel, in their submissions, had objected to the admissibility of the video evidence on the grounds that the documents were not front loaded, not part of the documents agreed and they were taken by surprise by the petitioners.
Atiku and his party, the PDP, are alleging that the February 23 presidential poll was marred by widespread rigging, violence and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
They have called witnesses from various states, particularly from the northern part of the country, where they alleged most of the abnormalities took place.
After calling three witnesses at the resumed hearing yesterday, Atiku sought to tender 48 video recordings of alleged irregularities during the conduct of the poll.
The former vice president and PDP also applied to the tribunal to play the video recordings 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 the witnesses, Segun Showunmi, counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), objected to the request.
Usman said INEC did not support any bid by Atiku and PDP to play the video recordings for the tribunal to see and to admit same as exhibits.
He added that the video VCDs were not front-loaded by the petitioners and that INEC, which conducted the election, has been ambushed. He told the tribunal that only documents front-loaded would be allowed to be admitted as exhibits.
Buhari and APC aligned themselves with the submission of INEC.
Responding, Uche drew the attention of the tribunal to the pre-hearing report where they all consented that objections to documents admission could only be made at the final address stage.
In a short ruling, Justice Garba dismissed the objection of the respondents, reminding them of the agreement they freely entered, adding that once an agreement is reached, it becomes binding on all.
He stressed that no party could deviate from the agreement or adopt a position that breach the terms of the agreement.
He said in line with the agreement, parties had tendered various documents and objections indicated with reasons to the objections deferred till the final address stage.
He added that no particular document was excluded from been tendered from the bar.
“Cases sighted are not material at this stage, the documents are admitted in evidence”, the tribunal held.
Consequently, the panel admitted the 48 video CDs as exhibits and ordered the petitioners to lead evidence on them.
Showunmi played three of the CDs, two of which bordered on report on the controversial central server and the third on Buhari’s certificate.
In the first video, which were from a clip recorded from a television programme aired on a Lagos-based private station, Channels Television, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, was quoted as saying that results from the units and wards will be collated from the Form EC8E after which they would be transferred to the card reader and “transmitted to the central server.”
However, under cross-examination, the witness admitted that Igini was not the official spokesman for INEC.
The second video exhibit also showed INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, expressing optimism before the election that the commission would use the electronic system during the conduct of the 2019 general election.
The third video showed the military during a press briefing stating that although Buhari claimed to possess a West African School Certificate (WAEC), there is no evidence of the WAEC result in his personal file with the military.
But when Buhari’s lawyer, Alex Izinyon (SAN), sought to play a counter-video recording, the petitioners objected, forcing Izinyon to ask for an adjournment to enable him to bring his own equipment for the purpose of cross examining the witness.
The tribunal granted the request and adjourned further hearing in the matter till Tuesday for the continuation of the cross-examination of the petitioners’ witness.
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.