Obi calls first witness, tenders exhibit of Tinubu's alleged drug case - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Obi calls first witness, tenders exhibit of Tinubu's alleged drug case

Candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, who alleged that the presidential election that held on February 25, was rigged in favour of President Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, on Tuesday, called his first witness to testify before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja.

Obi's first witness, Mr. Lawrence Nwakaeti, who told the court that he is from Ihiala in Anambra state, identified a document relating to a court proceeding in the United States of America, USA, pertaining to Tinubu's alleged indictment in a drug related case.

Whereas the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, through its lead counsel, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, said it was not opposed to the admissibility of the document. 

On their part, both President Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, said they were vehemently opposed to the admissibility of the document. 

Tinubu and the APC said they would however reserve their reasons for opposing the document, in their final briefs of argument.

Consequently, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel, admitted the document in evidence and marked it as Exhibit PA- 5.

While being cross-examined by INEC's lawyer, the witness, said he was a registered voter that participated in the presidential election that held on February 25.

"I have my Permanent Voters Card and I voted at my polling unit located in front of my house at Umuezella Vilage square. 

"I did not play any other role except exercising my civic duty", the witness, who said he was called to the Nigerian Bar as a lawyer, on October 13, 2000, added.

Asked by Tinubu's lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, if he has ever visited the USA, the witness, said: "Yes my lords, I have been there at least once. That was in 2003. I was in Michigan".

In a follow-up question, Olanipekun, SAN, asked the witness: "My learned friend, you stated emphatically in your statement that the 2nd respondent was fined the sum of $460,000.00. Do you still stand by that deposition?"

Answering, the witness, said: "Yes my lord, I stand by it."

"Will you then be surprised that from the document which you tendered, there is no single line or even a word, relating to the issue of fine?", Olanipekun, SAN, asked. 

"My lords, I will be surprised because he was fined, and the document speaks for itself," the witness replied.

"Are you aware if the said indicting document was registered in Nigeria or if any certificate was attached to it from any consular," Olanipekun, SAN, queried.

"No, it was not registered. But
The documents were duly certified," the witness stated, adding, "my lords, there is a certificate from the person that issued it. But there is no certificate from the consular".

Also asked if there was a certificate from any police officer in the USA where the offence was allegedly committed. 

The witness replied in the negative, saying; "My lords, there is no certificate as the police played no role in the indictment."

On its part, the APC, through its lead counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, while cross-examining the witness, asked if he was aware of a letter dated February 4, 2003, which the Legal Attache to US Embassy, wrote to clear Tinubu of any complicity in the drug related case. 

"I am not aware of such clearance letter," the witness replied.

"Are you aware that the matter in the USA was a civil proceeding," Fagbemi asked in a follow-up question. 

"My lords, it was a civil forfeiture proceeding," the witness replied.

"Do you have a copy of the charge against the 2nd respondent (Tinubu," Fagbemi, SAN, asked. 

"My lords, I did not mention any charge and I don't have a copy," the witness added. 

Besides, Mr. Nwakaeti said he was not aware of any letter that the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, wrote to the APC on July 6, 2022, to withdraw his initial nomination as candidate of the party for Borno Central Senatorial District election.

Earlier in the proceedings, the court also admitted and marked as Exhibit PA (1- 4), Forms EC9, EC11A, EC11C, EC9(c), which the petitioners tendered in evidence without objection by the respondents.

The panel subsequently adjourned further hearing on the petition, till Wednesday. 

It will be recalled that Obi and the LP had indicated their decision to call a total of 50 witnesses in the matter.

Before the case was adjourned, the petitioners, through their lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, said his clients have applied for subpoena to be issued to compel some persons to appear before the court to testify.

Obi and LP had in their own petition marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023, among other things, contended that as at the time Tinubu's running mate, Shettima, became the Vice Presidential candidate, he was still the nominated candidate of the APC for the Borno Central Senatorial election. 

The petitioners equally challenged Tinubu's eligibility to contest the presidential election, alleging that he was previously indicted and fined the sum of $460,000.00 by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483, for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.

On the ground that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non- compliance with the provision of Electoral Act, 2022, the petitioners argued that INEC acted in breach of its own Regulations and Guidelines.

The Petitioners argued  that the electoral body was in the course of the conduct of the presidential poll, mandatorily required to prescribe and deploy technological devices for the accreditation, verification, continuation and authentication of voters and their particulars as contained in its Regulations. 

Therefore, they are praying the court to not only hold that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election, but to also declare that all the votes recorded for him were wasted votes owing to his non-qualification/disqualification.

"That it be determined that on the basis of the remaining votes (after discountenancing the votes credited to the 2nd Respondent) the 1st Petitioner (Obi) scored a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and had not less than 25% of the votes cast in at least 2/3 of the States of the Federation, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the 25th February 2023 presidential election.

"That it be determined that the 2nd Respondent having failed to score one-quater of the votes cast at the presidential election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on 25th February, 2023.

In the alternative, the petitioners want an order cancelling the election and compelling INEC to conduct a fresh election at which Tinubu, Shettima and the APC, listed as 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents, respectively, shall not participate.

They urged the court to declare that since Tinubu was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast in the election, therefore, his return as the winner of the presidential election, was unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.

In a further alternative prayer, the petitioners want the court to hold that the presidential election was void on the ground that it was not conducted substantially in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, and the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

Likewise, an order, "cancelling the presidential election conducted on 25th February 2023 and mandating the 1st Respondent to conduct a fresh election for the President, the Federal Republic of Nigeria".

Meanwhile, both Obi and his Vice Presidential candidate, Baba Ahmed Datti, were in court to observe the proceeding.

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