The Presidential Election Tribunal resumes tomorrow after a week’s break, writes Chuks Okocha, highlighting the subsisting server controversy
As President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) commence a defence of their victory in the last general election tomorrow, there are some pertinent questions that refuse to die off. The one question that has become a recurring decimal is the issue of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the server controversy.
Does INEC have a server or not? Last week when both the Peoples Democratic Party and the APC presented video clips on whether or not INEC had a server, a fresh angle came out seeking answers. PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar presented the clips to prove that INEC had a server but the next day, the APC team presented its video clips to deny that there was server and indeed electronic transmission of results during the presidential election.
But of the two video clips presented from the same source, one was edited to remove some aspects of the clips, where the other was not.
The lawyers of the APC presented an edited version of the interview the INEC chairman, Professor Mohood Yakubu, to the tribunal. In the video clips, some aspects were edited, different from what the PDP presented.
The video clips presented to the tribunal by the APC legal team was edited to remove where the INEC chairman acknowledged that the commission would be piloting the electronic transmission of the results to the commission’s server, whereas the video clips played to the tribunal a day earlier was not edited, whereas Prof. Yakubu spoke of the existence of electronic transmission of the presidential election to the INEC server.
The interview was conducted on February 6, 2019. In the interview, the INEC chairman said results would be collated electronically but it would not be used to declare results. According to him, “We want to pilot electronic transmission of results but will not be used to declare results”.
By implications, INEC has acknowledged that there was a server in the first place, where all the results were hosted. But INEC has not accepted that it had a server.
The argument, however, is whether INEC has a server in the first place or not and not whether it was used to declare results. The question begging for answers is not whether INEC transmitted the results but does the commission have a server where results were sent and second, why did INEC present edited video clips.
INEC has until this moment refused to deny or confirm statement credited to a former presidential aide, Reno Omokri, to the extent of the relationship INEC had with an IT company. Omokri also tweeted some questions, which INEC has refused to answer.
The former presidential aide had dared INEC to speak openly on this in his tweeter handle, when he said, “The firm behind the now deleted INEC SERVER is INITS Nigeria Limited, located at 16 Majaro Street, Okike, Yaba, 100001, Lagos, Nigeria. Femi and Taiwo are the individuals behind the firm”. He went further to give the company’s contact telephone number as 08034544165.
Though INEC refused to react, claiming that the matter was in the court, the man referred to in the tweet responded thus: Femi Taiwao @dftaiwo responded to Omokari @RenoOmokri “Hello Mr. Reno Omokri, INITS is not responsible for handling election results. INITS has never been responsible for handling election results. INITS DOES NOT have any server for election result collation or Result Transmission for INEC.”
After an initial refusal to comment, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyakanmi, said, “The Independent National Electoral Commission does not join issues with individuals especially, one that is desperately seeking attention or relevance for purely selfish gains.
“The result of the 2019 Presidential Election is at the moment a subject of litigation before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, therefore, the Commission cannot comment, discuss or join issues with anyone on matters directly or remotely related to the case, because it is subjudice.
“Let me also seize this opportunity to implore the media particularly, THISDAY Newspaper, to be circumspect in publishing comments or allegations by garrulous individuals on this matter before the court. The Press owes it a duty to preserve the sanctity of the judiciary in the coverage of news so as not to lose the society’s respect”.
But at the various hearings, the PDP and Atiku/Obi legal team shocked INEC and other Respondents in court with 48 video evidence and documents, showcasing the numerous fraud, rigmarole and flip-flop of the electoral commission before, during and after the general election.
The high point of the video presentation was to prove beyond doubt that INEC indeed had and maintained a central server. It was also to show to the world that the commission transmitted results of the February 23, 2019 Presidential election to the server.
Mr. Segun Showunmi, one of the spokesmen of the Atiku/Obi Presidential Campaign Organisation, was presented to the court by the PDP legal team as a star witness for the Party.
He was however rejected vehemently by Ustaz Usman, counsel to INEC, who described his presentation as an ambush. He quoted paragraph 4(6)(c) of the first schedule of the electoral act 2010 (as amended), saying the videos were supposed to be front loaded and mentioned in the main petition.
Counsel to President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC also aligned themselves with this position. But the trial Judge, Justice Mohammed Garba, dismissed their rejection, saying the documents were listed as provided by law and in line with section 258(1) of the evidence act of 2011.
After much ado, the PDP and Atiku/Obi were allowed to play 4 out of the 48 video clips to the court.
The first video was a clip of INEC Media Officer apologising to Nigerians for the abrupt postponement of the February 16, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections to February 23, 2019, less than 6 hours before commencement of polls. The officer cited logistic problems as reasons, but admitted that all the sensitive materials meant for the elections were deployed before the postponement.
The second video was a clip of Mike Igini, the Akwa Ibom State INEC REC, who told Nigerians in a chat with Seun Akinbaloye of Channels TV, that the Commission would transmit results to the server in order to show transparency and that the commission had nothing to hide.
The third video clip was a press conference by the Nigerian Army information officer on NTA, telling the world that the Army had no records of President Muhammadu Buhari’s credentials, and the fourth was a video clip of a press conference by the INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu, saying the commission would transmit the results of the February 23, 2019 Presidential Election to the server.
After the presentation of the videos, Mr. Showunmi told the court that the clips were available online and records from various television interviews and programmes of known and variable broadcast institutions in Nigeria. He testified that with the records from these videos, the INEC could not deny the existence of its server.
The PDP and Atiku/Obi legal team also presented witnesses from Borno and Yobe states. In Borno, Babagana Kukawa from Kukawa LGA and Hon. Abba Kako, both told the court that there was no election in the state, adding that the INEC in collaboration with the APC and security agents merely allocated votes to each political party in order of preference.
Mohammed Bulama from Yobe State reported that the APC agents in the 9 polling units in his ward were stationed at every polling unit. He told the court that voters were forced by security agents to submit their ballot papers after accreditation to these APC agents, who in turn thumb-printed the papers for the candidates of their choice.
However, at the commencement of proceedings on Tuesday, the APC counsel presented a counter video of Yakubu, in which the INEC chairman alluded to network and other logistics as reasons the commission may not transmit results of the elections to the server.
It was later discovered that the version of the video presented by the APC was doctored to suit its purpose. The opening part of the video, which was erased by the APC, was the part that Yakubu admitted that the commission would “pioneer electronic transmission of results to the INEC server during the elections”
But the PDP and Atiku/Obi continued with presentation of witnesses and documents to the court.
Is Atiku Abubakar a Nigerian by Birth?
Another major highlight of the proceeding were testimonies on the birthplace of Atiku, whether he is a Nigerian by birth as part of qualification to contest for the office of President of Nigeria or not.
A witness from Adamawa State, Ambassador MGSS testified that Atiku Abubakar was born in November 25, 1946, in Jada, Adamawa State. That he knew Atiku’s mother before 1946.
Another witness from Adamawa State, Mohammed Kabir Hayatu told the court that though Jada was part of Northern Cameroon before the plebiscite of 1961, the part Atiku came from has always been under the Nigerian colony and not Cameroon. He said Atiku is a citizen of Nigeria by birth and is qualified to contest, vote and be voted for in any election in the country.
Other witnesses from Nasarawa State testified that results from Karu LGA were canceled at the collation center, even though the election in the units was peaceful and in accordance with INEC guidelines and electoral act 2010 (as amended).
Nikita Ali told the court that one INEC presiding officer was given 10,000 dollars by the APC. He said he reported the INEC staff to the police and the police did nothing.
Another agent from Agaranga Ward in Nasarawa State reported that INEC presiding officers for the ward came to the polling units without card readers and result sheets.
The Orders of Subpoena
The Court of Appeal on Wednesday July 17, 2019 in a subpoena order mandated Yakubu and the REC in Zamfara State to appear before it with all the electoral materials, requested by the PDP and Atiku/Obi’s legal team.
The PDP and Atiku/Obi had obtained an Order from the Court of Appeal, four months ago, requesting the commission to make available some materials used in the 2019 Presidential Election but the INEC disobeyed this Order. Both Yakubu and the Zamfara REC were to appear in court on Thursday July 18, 2019.
The first witness that testified in court on Wednesday was a PDP Ward Collation Agent, Mr. Iotshe David from Karu LGA in Nasarawa State. He told the court that Atiku won overwhelmingly in his ward in Karu, but that the results were canceled by INEC.
Another agent from Karu LGA of Nasarawa State, Dangana Shao Barde told the Court that the PDP scored 22,580 votes, to defeat the APC which scored 9,407 votes. He reported that INEC canceled results in LGAs, where PDP defeated the APC in Nasarawa State in order to pave the way for the APC to win the PDP in all elections in the state.
In Chibok LGA of Borno State, Dr. Manase Allen testified that people voted without the use of card reader, which was a compulsory requirement as prescribed by INEC in its guidelines.
Mr. Arume Mohammed from Kogi State told the court that few minutes into the election, thugs wearing APC tags invaded two polling units in his ward and shot sporadically into air. According to him, two people were seriously injured and one died later in the hospital from the gunshot injuries.
The witness broke down in tears inside the court and wept profusely, when questioned by the Buhari counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, on who won election in his polling unit. He was angry that the lawyer could ask him such question after telling the court that no election took place in the units, because of violence.
The Petitioners, PDP and Atiku/Obi closed their case with the presentation of their star witnesses and documents brought into the court by INEC.
Yakubu and the Zamfara State REC on Wednesday submitted copies of the electoral materials that were used in the election as requested by the PDP’s legal team.
The documents were not rejected by INEC except the certificate of compliance, but President Buhari and the APC counsel rejected all the documents. The documents were admitted in court in evidence.
David Ayu Nyangor from Kenya is a data analyst that was Subpoena to testify in court. He told the court that he got his information from a whistleblower website, www.factsdontlieng.com; that factsdontslieng was created by an INEC staff that worked inside the commission’s server room.
Facts Dont Lie Nigeria
He referred the court to the website, saying the website has the results of the February 23, 2019 Presidential election as transmitted by INEC.
When asked by the APC counsel if he hacked into the INEC server, he replied that he relied on the content of the whistleblower website and from his analysis, INEC indeed owned and maintained a central sever.
Another data analyst, Jospeh Gbenga, who was also Subpoena to testify in court, informed the tribunal that from his records, there were substantial issues of over voting and electoral malpractices in 11 states, and results from the states should be canceled.
The last witness to testify for the PDP and Atiku/Obi was Chief Osita Chidioka, the PDP National Collation Agent.
He informed the court that, as a National Collation Agent, he was part of the various stakeholders meeting where the INEC Chairman, Yakubu promised to transmit results of the election to the server. He also told the court that even in the budget of INEC, there were provisions for the training of ad-hoc staff for the purpose of transmitting results to the server.
He reported that from records available to him from his agents across the country, the final results as declared by INEC on February 27, 2019 was not the true reflections of the results as collated by the PDP agents and both local and foreign observers.
He told the court that from the actual votes cast, the PDP Presidential Candidate, Atiku won the February 23, 2019 Presidential election.
In all, the PDP presented a total of 62 witnesses and several documents to show that the Candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari was not duly elected on February 23, 2019; that the 2nd Respondent, Muhammadu Buhari was not validly elected by reasons of all the corrupt practice of INEC, APC and security agents.
That the election of the 2nd Respondent, Muhammadu Buhari was not validly elected by reasons of non compliance with the electoral act 2010 as amended; that Muhammadu Buhari, the Presidential Candidate of the APC was not qualified to contest for the office of the President of Nigeria; that Muhammadu Buhari submitted to INEC, affidavits containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election.
The court adjourned to tomorrow, Monday, July 29, 2019 for the respondents to prepare their defence.