POLITICS

Atiku Vs Buhari: Tribunal summons INEC chair, orders Commission to give PDP result compilation sheets

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has ordered the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Zamfara, to appear before it and produce some documents requested by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, by noon today.

The five-member tribunal led by Justice Mohammed Garba issued the order yesterday, following complaints by counsel for the petitioners, Chief Chris Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to the effect that officials of the commission had refused to comply with the court’s subpoena served on them and the payment made for it.

Specifically, Uche told the tribunal that the INEC officials had refused to release documents to the petitioners despite that the fees for the certification for the documents had been paid to the commission.

He also alleged that the INEC officials had been instructed not to release to them electoral documents for which court subpoenas had been issued and served on them to produce in court.

“We have made concerted efforts and we stated in the letters we wrote to them that we have it on good authority that they were instructed not to release the documents,” Uche said.

After taking contributions from counsel for the respondents, Garba said: “I have seen from the record of the court that the INEC Chairman and the Resident Electoral Commission, Zamfara State, were duly served with subpoena issued on July 9, 2019, to produce documents named therein.

“The INEC chairman and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Zamfara and the legal team representing them are under binding obligation to ensure that the orders contained in the subpoena are obeyed.”

The tribunal observed that the subpoena directed both INEC officials to produce the documents on July 15, but it might have been impossible to produce the documents that day.

Garba added that it was clear that up till yesterday’s proceedings, the documents requested had yet to be produced.

He also held that since there was no specific directive for them to produce the documents at yesterday’s proceedings, “they are directed to produce the documents by noon on Thursday, July 18, 2019.”

INEC is represented at the tribunal by Yunus Usman (SAN), Buhari’s lawyer is Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) is leading the legal team of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

An agent of the PDP in a ward in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, Dagana Barde, told the tribunal in how his party defeated Buhari and his APC during the February 23, 2019 poll, only for the results to be cancelled without any justification.

Barde, who was testifying as the 51st petitioners’ witness, said his party polled 22,580 votes to defeat Buhari and the APC whom he said scored 9,407 in his ward.

“The results were cancelled without any justification other than that my party won,” he said.

Asked under cross-examination by the respondents’ lawyers, he said he did not have the result sheets.

He also said there were 13 polling units in the ward and not 11 as he wrongly stated in his statement filed before the court.

Asked to name the places where the results were cancelled, he said, “I know results were cancelled in my ward but I can’t remember others.”

But he conceded that results were announced on a state-by-state basis at the national collation centre and not on the basis of local government, ward or polling units.

He also confirmed that he learnt of the results’ cancellation from his LG agent who was not allowed into the collation centre.

In his evidence-in-chief, a ward collation agent for the PDP in Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, Aliyu Abdullahi, told the tribunal that he rejected results from two polling units located in a town that had been deserted. Abdullahi, who is the 52nd witness for the petitioners, said the INEC produced results from the two polling units in Wuji Primary School and Kuba Sarkin Wuji, in Awe LGA even when the town had been sacked by Fulani herdsmen.

While under cross-examination by respondents’ lawyers, the witness explained  that the election in Awe Local Government was conducted “in substantial compliance with INEC guidelines” except for the two polling units.

However, Olanipekun drew the witness’ attention to a part of his written statement where he said the two polling units were not in existence.

Asked to clarify it, he said, “the polling units still remained as polling units in Wuji.”

But he added, “As of that time, there was nobody there. Results were produced in these polling units.”

Asked to give the figures of the results from the polling units, he said: “I did not collate it. That is why I can’t remember. I refused it.”

Meanwhile, attempt by the petitioners’ lawyer, Pius Akubo (SAN), to re-examination him to clarify the seeming contradiction in his claim about the existence or otherwise of the two disputed polling units was rejected by the tribunal.

Another witness, Sani Abdul moved the tribunal into laughter while answering questions posed to him during cross-examination.

Abdul, who is the 53rd witness for the petitioners, was the collation agent for the PDP in Gaya Local Government Area of Kano State.

When asked by Fagbemi how long he had been in politics, the witness said, “I’m not into partisan politics”.

But asked which party he belonged to, he said: “PDP.”

His response threw the courtroom into wide laughter, including members of the bench and the bar.

Abdul further told the tribunal that he neither listened to radio nor watched television.

In his evidence, Abdul said as the PDP’s Local Government collation agent, he received complaints of manipulation of votes, changing of results, and re-writing of results by INEC officials in connivance with security officials from different parts of the LG during the poll.

He, however, confirmed that he did not mention the names of those who perpetrated the irregularities in his statement on oath.

Answering a question from Olanikpekun, Abdul said he would be surprised if the petition did not complain of election irregularities.

The witness admitted that he queued and voted during the election, which was conducted in an orderly manner.

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