Two ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who are subpoenaed witnesses of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, told the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja how the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) failed to transmit the February 25 presidential results. The witnesses admitted that BVAS failed to transmit the results of the election after the collation.
The witnesses, Friday Egwuma and Grace Timothy, in their separate testimonies, said that the BVAS allocated to them developed a system error immediately after the results of the Senate and House of Representatives aspects of the poll were freely transmitted. They further explained that they had to resort to other means of getting the results when it became clear that the BVAS machines would not help them. Egwuma was a Presiding Officer in a polling unit in Abia State while Grace Timothy served INEC in Plateau State.
Apart from the failure of the BVAS machines to transmit the presidential election results, the two witnesses admitted that voting went smoothly in their respective places of work. They were led in evidence by Atiku’s lead counsel Chief Chris Uche (SAN). Under cross-examination by counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmud (SAN), Egwuma explained that he resorted to an offline system in place of the BVAS machines. In her own testimony, Grace Timothy told the Court that the greatest challenge she experienced during the election was the uploading of the presidential election results into the I-Rev portal.
The witnesses were also cross-examined by counsel to Tinubu, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) who represented the All Progressives Congress (APC). Meanwhile, further hearing in the petition has been shifted to June 9 by the Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani.
Earlier Tinubu and the APC yesterday opposed the bid by Atiku to present an ad-hoc staff of INEC to give evidence in his petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the 2023 presidential election. Atiku, in his bid to establish the alleged irregularities against the election, had subpoenaed three ad- hoc workers of INEC to give first-hand account of their experiences as they related to the presidential election of February 25.
However, counsel to Tinubu, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) objected to the use of statements made on oath by the witnesses to be tendered at the PEPC in aid of Atiku’s petition. The grouse of the President and the APC was that the statements of the ad- hoc workers were not front loaded at the time of filing the petition. Olanipekun, who cited several provisions of the law against the use of the witnesses, argued that since they were subpoenaed by Atiku as the petitioner, he ought to have front loaded their statements on oath along with the petition.
He asked the Court to reject the witnesses and discountenance their statements on grounds of violating the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. Tinubu’s arguments against the subpoenaed witnesses were adopted by counsel to APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN). However, Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) asked the Court to dismiss the objections on the grounds that they were utterly misplaced and mis- conceived.
Uche argued that the objections by Tinubu, APC and INEC were deliberate ploy designed to delay proceedings. He further insisted that the statements of the subpoenaed witnesses could not have been front loaded along with the petition because they had not been summoned at the time of filing the petition.
He asked the Court to discountenance the objections of the three respondents and hold that they are not regular additional witnesses envisaged in the law cited by Olanipekun. Justice Tsammani, however, ordered that the evidence of the three subpoenaed witnesses be taken and the respondents to cross examine them.