Two subpoenaed Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ad hoc officers said the election umpire had difficulty uploading presidential results during the February 25 election.
The officers, Friday Egwuma and Grace Timothy who testified as subpoenaed witnesses before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) made this known on Thursday. In a petition marked CA/PEPC/05/2023, Abubakar Atiku and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are challenging the outcome of the Feb.25 presidential election which brought Tinubu as the winner.
The respondents in the petition are Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Bola Tinubu and All Progressives Congress (APC). At the resumed hearing, Chris Uche, SAN, counsel for the petitioners informed the court that they are calling their first subpoenaed witness.
The witness named Friday Egwuma, an INEC adhoc officer during the February 25 election was a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member as of that date. At the point of adopting his witness’ statement on oath, there was objection from the respondents.
The respondents’ counsels all gave their submissions and the Court reserved ruling on their objections until final judgement. Testifying, Egwuma and Timothy told the court that they worked as polling unit officers.
They admitted that they operated the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS). They said they were able to upload results for the House of Representatives and Senate successfully while the presidential election results refused to go.
Earlier, when Uche was leading Egwuma in evidence to adopt his witness statement on oath, President Bola Tinubu ‘s counsel, Wole Olanipakun, SAN objected. Olanipakun submitted that the statement was not listed, and front loaded alongside other list of witnesses as required by the provision of the Electoral Act
He said the provisions of the law does not make distinction as to whether a witness is subpoenaed or not, that his or her statement must be front loaded. He argued that in this case the subpoenaed witness’ statement was not front loaded alongside other list of witnesses in the petition.
Olanipakun however, submitted that he was not unaware that the Court could summon witnesses by itself in the interest of justice. He cited some authorities to drive his point home and we cannot add or subtract from what is in the law.
He, therefore, urged the court to uphold the objection. In his own submission, counsel for INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN said counsels have an overriding duty to help the Court.
He said at the time of filing the petition, the petitioners ought to have filed the subpoenaed witnesses’ statements on oath and front load. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN counsel for APC in his submission aligned with both the 1st and 2nd respondents’ counsels.
He added that the petitioners can come with application for extension of time in which they can file additional witnesses. However, Atiku’s lead counsel, Uche asked the Court to dismiss the objections on the grounds that they were utterly misplaced and misconceived.
He submitted that the objections by Tinubu, APC and INEC were deliberate ploys designed to delay proceedings. Uche insisted that the statements of the subpoenaed witnesses could not have been front loaded along with the petition because they have 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.