Peter Obi (left) with INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu
The lawyers representing Peter Obi and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC were at daggers drawn in court over subpoena to Mahmood Yakubu to appear in court to testify.
Lawyers to Obi, presidential candidate of Labour Party, LP, on Wednesday, June 14, alleged that Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was avoiding coming to court to testify as one of the star witnesses at at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPT.
Obi is challenging the declaration of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election by INEC in March and has been presenting evidence at the panel to back up his claims.
One of the evidences he insists lies with the INEC chairman, who has been compelled by the tribunal to come and provide his own side of the story, including what led to the inability of INEC to upload the results of the presidential election, at the same time the commission did those for the National Assembly.
At the resumption of proceedings on Wednesday, Obi’s lawyer Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), who had earlier obtained a subpoena to compel the INEC Chairman to appear before the court, told the panel that Mahmood, who was summoned not only to testify as a witness but to equally produce and tender in evidence, some sensitive materials that were used for the conduct of the presidential election, had been evading court.
Informing the court that all efforts to serve a copy of the subpoena on the INEC Chairman, failed, he bemoaned the situation, saying: “My lords, I thought that by now, we would have been through with the stage of tendering of documents. I have drawn the attention of the lead counsel to the INEC, Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, that the office of the Chairman of the Commission has consistently refused to accept subpoenas to produce certain documents, in spite of efforts of Bailiffs of this court.
“The counsel graciously asked me to give him a copy of the subpoena, but I didn’t have an extra copy to give to him, so, he asked me to give it to any member of his team. My lords, because I still do not have an extra copy, I intend to get it and send to him once the proceeding of today is over. I am confident that he will do the needful for us to continue our case tomorrow.”
But Kemi Pinhero (SAN), lawyer to INEC, who countered, accusing Obi of always looking for who to blame for his failure, maintained that he was not privy to any discussion that Obi’s lead counsel had with any member of the Commission’s legal team.
He said: “My lords should take note that it has become a habit for the petitioners, that whenever they want to seek for an adjournment, they must look for someone to blame. I was not privy to any discussion they had with our team leader because all the discussions have been open to members of our group.
“However, it cannot be true that the Chairman of INEC refused to receive the subpoena. In PDP’s case, subpoenas were served, not only on the Chairman but also on some National Commissioners. My lords should equally note that all the avalanche of documents they have tendered so far, some of them were certified as far back as in March.
“Yet, every time, they keep complaining that INEC refused to release documents to them. The submission that INEC refused to give documents to them, with due respect to the learned counsel, is not true. If they want to ask for an adjournment, they should do so and not attempt to use the INEC as a weeping board. I want to say for the records that it is not correct that INEC Chairman refused to receive a subpoena. The Chairman of INEC has no interest whatsoever. This allegation against him is most uncharitable.”
But as it appeared that tempers were becoming high when Uzoukwu, maintained his position, urging the court to verify from its Bailiffs, if the INEC Chairman did not refuse service of the subpoena, Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel, stepped in to urge for restraint from both parties.
“There is no need to quarrel over this issue. If a subpoena was refused, counsel knows what to do. We should remember that after this case, we will still see each other in court. So, let us not allow issues like this to destroy bonds of friendship,” the Chairman of the panel, Justice Tsammani cautioned the senior lawyers.
Following a no-objection stance by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who appeared for President Tinubu, as well as by counsel for the APC, Afolabi Fashanu (SAN), the court adjourned further hearing on the matter till Thursday.
Vanguard reports that the petitioners had earlier in the proceedings on Wednesday, tendered in evidence before the court, copies of printouts of the results of the presidential election from seven states of the federation, which they downloaded from INEC’s IReV portal, which they claimed were duly certified by INEC.
They included those from 21 LGAs in Benue state, 25 LGAs in Niger state, 17 LGAs in Edo state, 20 LGAs in Bauchi state, 8 LGAs in Bayelsa, 8 LGAs in Gombe state and 21 LGAs in Kaduna state, in addition to bundles of printouts from unlinked or cancelled LGAs in the states.
Though all the respondents in the matter, objected to the admissibility of the documents, the panel admitted them in evidence and marked them as Exhibits, in addition to a certificate of compliance for certified Exhibits from 28 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
With additional reports from the Whirlwind and Vanguard