INEC, Tinubu, and APC Unsettled as Atiku Presents Subpoenaed Witnesses in Election Petition Hearing
The decision of former Vice President Abubakar Atiku to bring subpoenaed witnesses into the hearing of his petition on Wednesday has stirred unease among the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Bola Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC). They jointly maintained their stance that the witnesses should not be allowed to testify until June 8.
As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the disputed February 25 presidential election, Atiku called his first subpoenaed witness at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPEC) to present sensitive documents. However, this move faced vehement opposition.
INEC, Tinubu, and APC, represented by their respective lawyers, objected to the introduction of evidence from a witness identified as an Adhoc staff of INEC.
During the proceedings on Wednesday, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, the lead counsel to the PDP, called one of his listed witnesses after admitting exhibits from 10 local governments in Kogi State. This witness provided evidence on how INEC failed to transmit results in real-time, contrary to their promise.
Following the cross-examination of the witness, Ndubuisi Nwobu from Anambra State, Uche informed the court that the petitioners had three subpoenaed witnesses and proceeded to call the first one, an Adhoc staff of INEC.
However, as soon as the witness entered the witness box and took his oath, counsel to INEC, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, objected to the hearing of the witness’s evidence. He explained that he had only been served with the witness’s statement that morning and needed time to study it for a thorough cross-examination.
Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, and APC’s lawyer, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, shared the same position, stating that they had received the statement only 20 minutes prior and had not had a chance to review its contents.
In response, Uche argued that they were not required to provide the witness’s statement in advance to the respondents since he was subpoenaed. He also claimed that there was nothing extraordinary in the witness’s statement that warranted an adjournment.
Uche pleaded with the court to allow at least one of the subpoenaed witnesses to testify in order to make efficient use of the allocated time, as an adjournment would eat into their schedule.
Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, attempted to be considerate and proposed a 30-minute break to allow the respondents to examine the documents and cross-examine the first subpoenaed witness.
However, INEC insisted that the witness could not be heard at that moment and should not be taken, as he was said to be an Adhoc staff of the Commission. They argued that they needed to consult INEC’s records to confirm the witness’s status and adequately prepare.
Due to the respondent’s insistence, Uche requested an adjournment until the next day for the calling of the three subpoenaed witnesses.
In his earlier testimony, Nwobu informed the Court that the election went smoothly in most polling units he visited, including the one where he cast his vote. However, he claimed that issues arose at the Ward Collation Centers. Nwobu stated that although results were entered into the EC8A forms at the polling units, they were not transmitted in real-time to the IReV due to the failure of the BVAS machines.
He further disclosed that his intervention prevented some INEC staff from being attacked due to their inability to upload results in real-time.
“There was no real-time
transmission of results as we were promised by INEC,” he said.