Anxiety As Tinubu, APC, INEC Opens Defence at Tribunal on Obi, LP, Atiku, PDP Petitions

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President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would today open their defence against the petitions filed by the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively.

Atiku and Obi had last week Friday closed their cases at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) where they have challenged the conduct and outcome of the February 25 presidential election won by Tinubu and the PDP.

National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu had on March 1, announced Tinubu of the APC as winner ahead of 17 other candidates that contested the election.

INEC declared that Tinubu scored 8,794,726 votes to defeat the two major contenders, Atiku of the PDP, who polled 6,984,520 votes and Obi of LP with 6,101,533 votes.

However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Atiku, Obi, and Allied Peoples Movement (APM) lodged petitions before the court. They maintained that Tinubu was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election.

In their joint please marked CA/PEPC/05/2023, the PDP and Atiku disputed the outcome of the election on the major grounds that INEC did not conduct the election in line with the Electoral Act (2022).

The petitioners went further and argued that INEC breached its earlier commitment to transmit the result of the presidential election electronically using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).

On their part, the LP and Obi in their petition marked CA/PEPC/ 03/2023, contended that the elections were marred by electoral malpractices and substantial non-compliance with relevant laws.

The petitioners are therefore among others reliefs, asking the five-man panel of the court to invalidate the declaration of Tinubu as winner.

Another petitioner before the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel is the APM which is seeking nullification of the votes scored by President Tinubu and the APC on account of alleged double nomination of Senator Kashim Shetimma, who is now the vice president.

While Atiku and the PDP called 27 witnesses and tendered several documents before closing their case, Obi and LP called 13 witnesses and tendered tons of documents to close their case.

The APM, which opened and closed its case on June 21 called only one witness.

One of the star witnesses to Atiku and PDP and private lawyer, Mike Enahoro-Ebah, tendered Tinubu’s academic records from the Chicago State University and the president’s biodata obtained from INEC.

Led in evidence by the lead counsel to the petitioners, Chief Uche, the witness further tendered electoral documents in evidence to substantiate Atiku’s claims of electoral fraud allegedly perpetrated by INEC and Tinubu.

The documents tendered included Tinubu’s Form EC9 (affidavit in support of personal particulars); what they described as a certificate from the Chicago State University; NYSC discharge certificate (which the witness said contained the name: Adekunle); a party membership card and a certificate of service from Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc.

Also tendered were what the witness described as academic records of Tinubu from the Chicago State University; what he referred to as the actual certificate issued by the university; application for admission allegedly made by Tinubu in 1977; a transcript for admission from the South West College, in which the witness claimed Tinubu was referred to in the female gender.

Also tendered were a notorised judgment of a United States District Court and a print out of a Guinean passport, which the witness claimed belonged to Tinubu.

The respondents, INEC, Tinubu and the APC, objected to the admissibility of the documents in evidence and promised to adduce their reasons at the point of filing their final written addresses.

On their parts, Obi and LP tendered through their witnesses, polling unit results from 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as well as bundle of documents containing the total number of Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) that were collected in 32 states prior to the 2023 general elections.

Aside from tendering four video exhibits, one of which was a press conference, where Prof. Yakubu assured that results of the election would be electronically transmitted to the IReV portal in real-time using BVAS, Obi and his party equally tendered bundle of documents that contained the total number of registered voters in each of the states.

Other electoral documents the court admitted in evidence were certified true copies of INEC Forms EC40Gs; EC40G1; EC40GPU, which were reports of various polling units where elections did not hold.

A data analyst subpoenaed to testify as Mr Obi’s fourth witness, Eric Uwadiagwu, said about 18,000 result sheets obtained from INEC’s IReV were blurred.

The professor of mathematics at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, appeared in court on subpoena to testify as a petitioner’s witness.

He confirmed carrying out data analysis on the results of the presidential election obtained from the IReV portal

All the respondents had challenged the admissibility of all the documents in evidence, saying they would adduce reasons behind their objections in their final written address.

It is now the turn of the respondents to open their defence and deflate the claims of the petitioners before the court.

While the electoral body said it plans to call two witnesses, President Tinubu is to call 39 in addition to those to be subpoenaed just as APC plans to call 25 witnesses in addition to those to be subpoenaed.

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