The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja last Monday resumed sitting after a week recess to observe the Eid festival.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which was billed to open its defence on the petition filed by candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the 2023 election, failed to do so. When the case was called up for hearing, INEC, through its lead counsel, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), told the court that its witness was not available owing to some domestic issue. Consequently, Mahmoud persuaded the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel of the court to adjourn further proceedings in the matter to Tuesday. Obi’s legal team led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), did not oppose the application for an adjournment.
President Tinubu’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), as well as that of the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) equally told the court that they were not against the re- quest for the matter to be adjourned. Owing to the development, the panel, deferred the case till Tuesday to enable the electoral body to produce its first witness. However, on that same Monday, INEC opened and closed its defence against Atiku’s petition. While defending the election, INEC produced one witness.
Led in evidence by INEC’s lead counsel, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), the wit- ness, Lawrence Bayode, who is a Deputy Director of ICT at the Commission, tendered the letter and its accompanying certification, which was admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibits RA-1 and RA-2. While being cross-examined by Tinu- bu’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the witness insisted that the presidential election held on February 25, was “free, fair, credible and conducted in substantial compliance with the Elec- toral Act.” Answering questions from APC’s counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the witness told the court that the technical glitch that was experienced on election day did not affect the actual scores of all the presidential candidates, which he said remained intact.
However, while being cross-examined by counsel to the petitioners, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), the witness told the court that the European Union, EU, Observation Mission was accredited by INEC to monitor the 2023 general election. Asked if he was aware that the EU has released its final report on the election, the witness, said: “Yes I am aware, but I have not seen it”.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, the court admitted as exhibits, the Chi- cago State University educational docu- ments of President Bola Tinubu, who formally opened his defense in a petition filed against his election by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presi- dential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. Through his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Tinubu also tendered his US visa documents which indicated that he severally visited the United States of America (USA) unhindered between 2011 and 2021. Tinubu who tendered the documents to debunk allegations of criminality contained in the petition against him also made available to the court, all documents of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) which cleared him for the US trips. Also admitted as exhibits by the court is the United State of America’s Embassy letter of April 4, 2003 which is a response to a letter of the Nigerian Police dated February 3, 2003 which claimed that the Embassy had no criminal records of Tinubu in the USA.
President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday closed his defence against the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, seeking to nullify his election victory. Tinubu, through his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), closed the defence against the petition, after he presented one witness. Senator Bamidele told the court that many international bodies that sent observers to the country, including the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, filed a report after the election. He told the court that the ECOWAS report on the presidential election dat- ed February 27, was signed by a former President of Republic of Sierra Leone, Mr. Ernest Koroma.
Despite objection by Obi’s lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), the Jus- tice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel admitted the ECOWAS report in evidence and marked it as Exhibit RA-27. Continuing his testimony, the witness, confirmed a letter the LP wrote to INEC on April 25, 2022, wherein it forwarded its membership Register, as well as its list of members in Anambra State, to the Commission. While being cross-examined by APC’s counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the witness told the court that the LP membership list forwarded to INEC prior to the presidential election did not contain Obi’s name. In a counter move, counsel to the pe- titioners, Uzoukwu, SAN, through the witness, tendered the final report of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, which impugned the conduct and outcome of the 2023 general elections. Notwithstanding objections from all the Respondents, the court admitted a certified copy of the EU report and marked it as Exhibit S-2. After the APC closed its case, the court gave the respondents 10 days to file their final written addresses, the petitioner was given 7 days to respond and 5 days to reply on point of law.