The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), President Bola Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress, (APC), on Wednesday in Abuja, opposed the appearance of subpoenaed witnesses from Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to testify.
When the petitioners called the first subpoenaed witness, the respondents expressed unease, claiming they were unprepared to cross-examine the witness because they had only received the witness statement on Wednesday.
The respondents objected to the witness’s testimony, who was allegedly an Ad hoc staff member of INEC during the presidential election on February 25, through their attorney.
Mr. Chris Uche, SAN, the petitioners’ attorney, informed the court that the petitioners had three witnesses they had subpoenaed before calling the first one.
The INEC attorney, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, vehemently objected to the witness testifying as soon as he entered the witness box.
Mahmoud claims that the witness’s statement was only served on me this morning, so I must carefully read it in order to conduct a thorough cross-examination.
He argued that the witness could not be called because he was allegedly an Adhoc employee of the Commission. As a result, he would need to visit INEC records to confirm the witness’ status and ensure he was properly prepared.
Akin Olujimi, SAN, counsel for Tinubu, and Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, counsel for the APC, both stated that they had received the witness statement on Thursday and needed time to review it in order to conduct a proper cross-examination.
Attempts by Uche to insist on taking the witness, claiming that normally, subpoenaed witness statements did not have to be front-loaded, were futile because the respondents insisted on reading the statements.
Uche pleaded with the court to take at least one of the subpoenaed witnesses, claiming that there was nothing unusual in the statement to warrant an adjournment.
Following the respondents’ insistence, Uche asked the court to adjourn until Thursday so that the three subpoenaed witnesses could testify.
Earlier, the petitioners called Mr. Ndubisi Nwobu, the PDP Collation Agent for Anambra, as their 11th witness.
In his opening statement, Nwobu stated that he was forced to sign Form EC8D because it became clear that if he did not, INEC would not provide him with a copy.
Under cross-examination by Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, the witness told the court that although the election was peaceful at his polling unit, INEC officials refused to upload the results to the INEC Result Verification Portal (IREV).
” The election went well in my polling unit, and the result was entered, but we insisted that the result be uploaded on IREV, and all efforts proved abortive.
“There was no problem at the polling units; it was at the ward level that magic started happening, “the witness said.
He also told the court that he visited about 30 out of the 4,720 polling units in Anambra.
Also, during cross-examination by Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, counsel to the APC, the witness stated in court that his main complaint about the election was that there was no real-time upload of results on IREV, as promised by the INEC chairman.
The witness also informed Mr. Akin Olujimi, SAN, President Bola Tinubu’s counsel, that the Labour Party had won the election in Anambra.
When the petitioner attempted to call witnesses who had been subpoenaed by INEC, all of the respondents objected, claiming that they had only recently been served with the witness statements and needed to read them.
Following that, the Court’s Chairman, Justice Haruna Tsammani, adjourned proceedings until Thursday to allow the respondents to study the witness statements of the subpoenaed witnesses for seamless cross-examination.
INEC, President Tinubu, and the APC are the petition’s respondents (CA/PEPC/05/2023).
Reports show that Atiku and the PDP are before the court to challenge the outcome of the Feb. 25 presidential election on the grounds that it was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The petitioners contend that President Tinubu was not duly elected by a majority of valid votes cast during the election.