•Say ex-Anambra governor’s name not in LP’s register submitted to INEC
•Allege shortfall of 11,000 votes in Kano
•Atiku: president, first to be declared winner without 25% in FCT
Alex Enumah in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, closed their cases in the two petitions filed by Mr Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
yesterday, also, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) closed its case soon after calling one witness, who among others, informed the court that a technical glitch occurred during the presidential election.
Although the respondents had hinted of calling several witnesses to defend the results of the presidential poll, only INEC and Tinubu called one witness each, while APC adopted that of Tinubu and Shettima.
INEC had at the close of a pre-hearing session indicated that it would call two witnesses, Tinubu and Shettima, 39 and the APC, 25.
However, shortly after opening their defence and calling just two witnesses, the respondents announced the closure of their defence in the two petitions.
In the first petition marked: PEPC/03/2023 between Obi and LP against INEC, Tinubu, Shettima and APC; the second and third respondents, through their sole witness, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, dismissed all criminal allegations against Tinubu, stressing that a United States Report as far back as 2003 cleared Tinubu of any criminal allegations; be it forfeiture or drug-related.
Speaking on the sum of $460,000 Tinubu was said to have forfeited to the United States over alleged complicity in drug deals, the senator, who claimed to be a member of the Nigerian Bar and the New York bar, observed that the forfeiture was in respect of a civil suit rather than criminal.
Bamidele pointed out that the court document relied upon by the petitioners did not contain any conviction or sentencing. He faulted Obi for filing the petition on the grounds that he (Obi) was not a member of LP as at the time he was sponsored as the presidential candidate of LP.
Meanwhile, the witness told the panel that a total of 10,929 votes that accrued to Tinubu and APC in Kano were missing while transferring the results from INEC’s Form EC8D (state) to Form EC8D (A) national.
During cross examination by Obi and LP’s lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, the witness, who said he was relying on report of the ECOWAS election observer mission, disagreed with a portion of the report that condemned the incidents of killing of an LP candidate in the South-east.
He also admitted not having licence to practice law in the State of Illinois, where Tinubu was said to have forfeited the sum of $460,000.
In the second petition marked: PEPC/05/2023, between Atiku and PDP against INEC, Tinubu and APC, the witness maintained that the forfeiture case against Tinubu in the US was not criminal.
On the issue of shortfall of 10,929 votes belonging to APC, Bamidele admitted not being in Kano State and at the national collation centre during the collation of results. He added that he was not aware that the agent of PDP at the national collation centre walked out and refused to sign the results in protest against alleged rigging of the presidential election.
Bamidele, among others, maintained that Tinubu was not mandated by the constitution to score 25 per cent of votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) before he could be declared winner.
He disagreed with Atiku’s lawyer, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, on the special status conferred on the FCT, arguing that states, like Lagos and Kano, have special status as centres of commerce.
The witness also refused to confirm that Tinubu was the first person to be declared president without securing 25 per cent of votes cast in the FCT.
On the suit filed by Attorneys-General of six states against the Attorney General of the Federation at the Supreme Court over the outcome of the presidential election, the witness admitted that neither Atiku nor PDP was a party, admitting further that none of the respondents was also a party.
He denied newspaper reports that his party, APC, “kicked against BVAS, IReV”. He said it was not a statement from the party.
At the end of cross-examination, Tinubu and Shettima’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, shortly after asking for the discharge of the witness, announced the closure of Tinubu’s defence, adding that everything that has a beginning has an end.
But rather than open its own defence, APC, through its lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, announced that the third respondent had opted to rely on the evidence of Tinubu and Shettima’s witness.
Fagbemi said, “Having taken a sober reflection of the entire case, we have enough evidence and we are not calling any witness, we announce the closure of the case of the third respondent.”
The five-member panel adjourned further hearing in the two separate petitions till a date that would be communicated to parties.
According to the electoral law, following the closure of the case of the respondents, they are to file their written addresses within 10 days, while the petitioners have seven days to respond. Both petitioners and respondents then have another five days to exchange further briefs.
Both Obi and Atiku, in their separate petitions before the Presidential Election Petition Court, were seeking the nullification of Tinubu’s victory at the February 25 presidential election.
Their grouse was that the election was marred by gross irregularities, corrupt practices, and non-compliance with the electoral laws. They said Tinubu did not score 25 per cent of the votes cast in the FCT, and that he was not qualified to be on the ballot on account of controversies surrounding his educational qualification, citizenship, age and alleged drug related offences.
The chairman of INEC, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, had on March 1 declared Tinubu winner of the presidential election, saying he scored majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.
Mahmood said Tinubu had polled a total of 8,794,726 lawful votes to emerge victorious. He was closely followed by the candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar, who scored 6,984,520 votes, and Mr Peter Obi of LP, who scored 6,101,533 votes to come second and third, respectively.
Displeased with the declaration, Atiku and Obi approached the court to argue and prove that Tinubu did not win majority of lawful votes as claimed by the electoral umpire.
They submitted that at the time Mahmood announced Tinubu winner, collation was still on-going, since many of the presidential election results were yet to be uploaded onto the INEC’s Results Viewing (IReV) Portals. They also accused INEC of manipulating the process to favour the ruling APC and Tinubu.