INEC calls 1 witness, closes defence in Obi's case against Tinubu's election - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

INEC calls 1 witness, closes defence in Obi's case against Tinubu's election

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Tuesday, closed its defence to the allegation by candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, that the 2023 presidential election was rigged in favour of President Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. 

The electoral body, in defence of the allegation, produced only one out of three witnesses it initially lined up to testify before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja.

The witness, Mr. Lawrence Bayode, who is a Deputy Director of ICT at the Commission, while being cross-examined by President Tinubu's lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, maintained that polling unit results contained in Forms EC8A, captured and transmitted to the IReV portal with the aid of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, were not relevant for the collation of results of the presidential election.

Mr. Bayode, who said he had worked at the INEC for over 24 years, while reacting to Obi's claim that blurred results were uploaded to the result viewing portal, insisted that the said results that were downloaded from the Commission's website, did not affect the physical results of the election that were recorded at the various polling units.

Besides, the witness told the court that he does not know INEC's website that Obi and the LP downloaded the said blurred election results from.

While being cross-examined by counsel to the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the witness, admitted that though INEC experienced technical glitches that hampered real time transmission of the election results, he however said the problem did not affect the collation of votes that each of the candidates garnered from the polling units.

He said the petitioners ought to have obtained the physical copies of the polling unit results since they contended that the ones that were uploaded to the IReV portal was not clear.

According to the witness, INEC had before the presidential election held, tested the technology it deployed with a view to ascertaining its functionality.

While answering questions from counsel to the petitioners, Mr. Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, the witness, told the court that the testing of the software application for the election was carried out on February 4.

He added that there was a report on the software testing, eventhough it was not part of documents be brought to the court.

He, however, agreed with the petitioners that the report of the e-Transmission application, identified remediation to be undertaken to resolve the high vulnerability identified in the report.

Meanwhile, before the witness was discharged from the box, counsel to the petitioners, tendered  a copy of the e- Transmission Server Web as well as a Compliance form, and they were admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibits in the matter.

The witness stated that INEC had a "cloud trail log account" with  Amazon Web services, AWS, which provided the technological infrastructure that was deployed for the election.

He said the said account could be accessed, adding that it would reveal patches that were deployed on INEC's e- transmission applications on AWS to fix glitches that were encountered on the election day. 

After the witness was discharged, INEC's lead counsel, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, told the court that the Commission would not produce another witness in the matter. 

"My lords, that will be all for the 1st Respondent," he added. 

Chief Olanipekun, SAN, who is representing both President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima, thereafter, declared the intention of his clients, who are the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, to open their defence.

Consequently, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel, adjourned the matter till Wednesday for the 2nd and 3rd Respondents to open their defence to the petition.

Obi, who came third in the presidential contest, closed his case on June 23, after he tendered several documentary evidence and called a total of 13 out of 50 witnesses he originally scheduled to testify before the court. 

Among exhibits he tendered before the court included 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 the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, assured that results of the election would be electronically transmitted to the the IReV portal in real time using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, 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.

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 will be recalled that Obi and the LP had approached the court to challenge the declaration of President Tinubu as winner of the presidential poll.

In their joint petition, they maintained that President Tinubu was not the valid winner of the election. 

The petitioners, in their case marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023, equally contended that President Tinubu was not qualified to participate in the presidential poll.

According to the petitioners, 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 further 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. 

They are, therefore, praying the court to among other things, declare that all the votes recorded for Tinubu and the APC, 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-quarter 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.

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, they applied for 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."

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