Ade Adesomoju, Abuja, PUNCH
The Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Monday, presented their first set of six witnesses at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in their bid to prove their petition challenging outcome of the polls.
They are by their petition filed before the Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal of five justices, challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress at the polls.
The petitioners presented their witnesses just as there were indications that they would challenge the results of the presidential election in 11 states.
Monday was the third of the 10 days the petitioners were allotted to present their case.
A former ally of Buhari, Buba Galadima, was the first witness presented by the petitioners at the Monday’s proceedings, contending that Buhari was not academically qualified to contest the presidential election.
Others included three Independent National Electoral Comimssion’s ad hoc workers serving in different capacities during the election, who testified that they transmitted the results of the election electronically as INEC trained them to do.
Others were party agents, who alleged harassment and intimidation of voters at their polling units.
The witnesses, in turn, were led by the lead counsel for the petitioners, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), to adopt as their evidence-in-chief, their witness statements on oath which they had earlier deposed to.
They were subsequently cross-examined by the respondents’ lawyers.
Under cross-examination by Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Galadmia, denied the claim that he fell out with Buhari after the President refused to appoint him a minister in 2015.
He said his quarrel with Buhari arose from the alleged injustice in the President’s administration, lack of inclusiveness and failure of the administration to secure Nigeria.
“You fell out with the 2nd respondent (Buhari), because he did not make you a minister in 2015,” Olanipekun asked.
Responding, Galadima said, “No. You should know that I fought all the previous governments since 1999 because of injustice.
“We made good promises to Nigerians, including justice and to secure the country, which he has failed to do.
“It has always been part of my characteristics to fight injustice.”
Reminded that his daughter, Zainab Buba-Galadima, remained a technical assistant to Buhari, Galadima denied saying he was only aware that she was appointed a member of “Films Board in Jos”.
He said with two first degrees and two Master’s’ degrees, his daughter was qualified to be appointed by the government.
“She is a qualified Nigerian. She is a mature Nigerian and who by her right having worked for the President deserves to be appointed.
“She is a member of Film Corporation Board and there many of those who have not worked for the President got bigger positions like minister.”
He confirmed that he had supported Buhari in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 elections until the 2019 election, yet he insisted that Buhari was not qualified to run for the presidency.
Asked by Olanipekun if he was aware that Buhari addressed the nation in English language while being the Head of State between 1983 and 1985, Galadima said, “As military Head of State, he addressed the country in the languages he understood which might include English.”
While being cross-examined by the All Progressives Congress’ lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the witness said he was not in the country when the Independent National Electoral Commission displayed the list of presidential candidates for the last election and so he could not have contested the President’s candidacy.
He also said he was aware that there was no registered party called the Reformed APC, but maintained that he was still the chairman of the group.
He however said he remained a member of the APC since he had “not been sacked” from the party.
Galadima, a spokesperson for the Atiku Campaign Organisation, said, “I am still a member of the APC. I have not been sacked. We are in court. I don’t want to be sub judice.
“I am not a member of the PDP, but we have a memorandum of understanding with the PDP to produce God-fearing, good and educated leader.”
We transmitted election results to INEC’s server – Ad hoc workers
Three INEC ad hoc workers, who testified before the tribunal on Monday, said they transmitted the results of the election electronically into INEC’s server.
INEC had declared that Buhari and APC the winner of the February 23 election polling 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, who polled 11,262,978 votes.
But Atiku and the PDP, in their petition filed on March 18 to challenge the outcome of the polls, contended that “from the data” obtained from INEC’s server, “the true, actual and correct results” showed that they polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari whom they said scored 16,741,430 votes.
By calculation, Atiku and the PDP claimed to have defeated Buhari by 1,615,302 votes.
But INEC had denied the existence of the server into which results were electronically transmitted.
The commission insisted that the results were manually collated no electronic transmission was done.
But the petitioners’ second witness, Mr. Peter Uzioma Obi, who worked as a registration area technician at a ward level in Rivers State during the election, said INEC trained him and others to transmit collated results into the sever and they did so at the end of the election.
He said this while fielding questions from INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), under cross-examination.
“You were not supposed to transmit results because you were not a presiding officer,” Usman asked.
Responding, Obi said, “You are wrong sir. INEC trained us to transmit results. I was not a presiding officer. I was not a polling agent. I was a registration area technician appointed by INEC. I was trained by INEC.”
Fielding questions from Buhari’s lawyer, Olanipekun (SAN), he said he was not aware of the guidelines used by INEC for the presidential election, but maintained that there was a specific guidelines booklet issued for his role as a RATECH.
“I was a RATECH in charge of the use of card reader,” he said.
He said he was not aware of Olanipekun’s claim that there was no designation in the INEC’s guidelines as Registration Area Technician.
He said he operated at the ward level with the Local Government Technician and the State Technician as his superiors.
He added that he was not stationed at any polling unit during the election but visited the ones where his attention was needed. He said he visited seven polling units in the course of the election.
Fielding questions from APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Obi said the lawyer was not entirely correct to say that it was the duty of the Presiding Officer “to do accreditation, verification authentication, and collation at the Polling Units.”
The witness said, “You are not entirely correct sir, because we were told at the training that the Assistant Polling Officer 1, was in charge of accreditation.”
Responding to more questions, he said, “I did not serve as APO1 and I did not serve as the Presiding Officer.”
He said he did not act on his own, contrary to Fagbemi’s suggestion.
“I have a letter to show that I was shortlisted.”
Testifying as the third petitioners’ witness, a Presiding Officer during the presidential election, Mr Adejuyitan Olalekan, also told the tribunal that he personally transmitted the results collated at his polling unit during the polls.
Olalekan was not asked to mention the state or the polling unit where he worked during the polls.
Under cross-examination by Olanipekun the witness, who said he was a lecturer at African Thinkers Community of Inquiry College of Education in Enugu State, said, “I did it myself as the Presiding Officer. I transmitted through the code provided by INEC,” he said.
But when asked by INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), he said he did not have the name or the number of the server.
Fielding questions from the APC’s lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), the witness said, “Without the code you cannot make any transmission of results.”
But asked if he attached the code with which he claimed to have transmitted the collated results to his witness statement on oath, he said he did not but had it on his phone.
While being cross-examined by Olanipekun, the witness maintained that all the voters in his polling units voted via card reader as the machine worked perfectly.
He also insisted that INEC did not direct presiding officers to allow voters who could not be authenticated by the card reader machine to vote manually with their picture captured.
He said, “No we were not directed to allow people to vote manually.
“The card reader worked for every voter who came to my polling unit to vote.”
The fourth prosecution witness, Adedokun Adeoye, who worked as an Assistant Presiding Officer (I ) during the election, also said he transmitted the results into INEC’s server at the end of the polls.
He stuck to his claim while being cross-examined by INEC’s lawyer.
Buhari’s lawyer confronted the witness with the claim that it was the duty of the Presiding Officer “to transmit the results in the necessary form to INEC”, and the APO I’s duty.
The witness insisted that it was APO I’s duty to transmit the results into server when shown the guidelines issued by INEC to point out where it was stated as part of the duty of APO I to transmit results.
No election in my unit, I signed result sheets because I was threatened with expulsion from N-Power Scheme – PDP agent
A polling unit agent of the PDP, Mohammed Tata, told the tribunal that although no election held at his polling unit in Jigawa State, he was made to sign under duress a result sheet in which figures had been allegedly allocated to political parties.
Tata, the petitioners’ fifth witness said under cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer that he signed the result sheet because he was threatened to be expelled from the N-Power Scheme, a youth empowerment scheme under which beneficiaries were given jobs, such as teaching and paid N30,000 monthly.
He said the 700 votes which INEC’s lawyer said the APC scored in the unit were fake.
He said, “All the people signed because they were asked to sign. They said they would remove me from N-Power if I did not sign.
“We signed the result sheet under duress because of harassment and intimidation.
“I don’t know if the agent of the APC signed because there were no elections in my polling unit sir.”
Responding to the claim that APC scored 700 in the polling units, Tata said, “It did not score that because there was no election in that polling unit; it was written.
He debunked INEC lawyer’s suggestion that he appeared in court to testify because he was aggrieved by the outcome of the election.
He said, “Sir, my lord, I am a Muslim I believe in destiny.
“Whether the PDP or the APC wins is not my concern, what I need is justice in my country.”
Asked to respond specifically if he was happy with the outcome of the election, he said, “I am not happy with what happened.”
He confirmed that none of those who allegedly harassed and intimidated people at his polling units was being prosecuted.
He said he reported the incident to the local government office of INEC but the officials did not follow up.
But fielding question from Buhari’s lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN), the witness said he was still benefiting from the N-Power Scheme.
The sixth petitioner witness, Mustapha Bello, also alleged harassment and intimidation of voters at his polling unit.
He said while 728 voters were accredited, the total votes cast amounted to 784.
Under cross-examination, he said “the vote of APC was put at 511 while PDP’s was 175”.
He also confirmed that the votes polled by the PDP and the APC only amounted to 686 votes.
But he said only two more parties apart from the APC and the PDP had votes in the polling units, but could not remember the two other parties and what their scores were.
He also confirmed that intimidation which he alluded to in his witness statement on oath did not stop him from voting.
Petitioners to challenge poll in 11 states
Indication emerged on Monday that the petitioners might limit their challenge of the outcome of the polls to 11 states.
The petitioners tendered the last set of result sheets for the states on Monday.
The states are: Niger, Yobe, Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna and Zamfara.
The petitioners tendered through their lead counsel, the result sheets for Zamfara State, those for the four remaining local governments of Kano, having tendered those for the rest of the local governments of the state on Friday.
They had tendered the result sheets for the nine other states last week.
They also tendered among other exhibits, newspapers certified by the National Library on April 8, 2019.
They also tendered a document certified by INEC containing the total number of registered voters and collected Permanent Voter Cards for the 2019 general elections.
They tendered Form EC8E dated February 27, 2019, which is the final results of the February 23 presidential election as declared by INEC.
They also tendered 10 press releases by INEC and which were certified by the commission.
The proceedings continue on Tuesday.
The respondents objected to the admissibility of almost all the documents as exhibits but would only give their reasons for their objection at the final address stage.
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, on Monday made his first appearance at the tribunal.
Oshiomhole arrived at the courtroom at 9.36am on Monday barely some few minutes before the five-man panel led by Justice Mohammed Garba started sitting.
He sat inbetween the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and leader of the APC from Adamawa State, Nuhu Ribadu, and a PDP leader, Tom Ikimi.
On Ikimi’s left was the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Kola Ologbondiyan.
When the proceedings began, Oshiomhole announced himself as representing both Buhari and the APC, the second and the third respondents to the petition.
Ologbodinyan represented the PDP.
• Source: PUNCH
Ade Adesomoju, Abuja, PUNCH