Some witnesses still missing in the bush, Presidential Tribunal adjourns
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Proceedings at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, came to abrupt end yesterday, as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, notified the panel that witnesses scheduled to appear and testify against President Muhammadu Buhari, were attacked by armed bandits.
The petitioners who are challenging the outcome of the February 23, presidential election that was declared in favour of President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, told the tribunal that some of the witnesses who were heading to Abuja from Zamfara State, were still hiding in the bush.
The development came on a day collation agents from Borno and Yobe States, gave evidence before the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member panel tribunal.
Among the eight witnesses that testified before the proceeding was adjourned owing to the attack by bandits, included an ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Oluwafemi Ogunride.
Ogunride who said he served as an Assistant Presiding Officer 1, insisted that he personally uploaded results to INEC’s central server, using a code he said was handed to him about two hours before the presidential election commenced.
He said he was specifically directed to ensure that he uploaded results and information that was captured by the Card-Reader Machines, into the server, using a code that was provided by INEC.
Asked under cross-examination if he could remember the total number of votes both APC and PDP got at his center, the witness said: “On that day I did not have personal interest, I just wanted to do the job as I was trained, so I did not check to know what any political party scored.”
Asked if he ever saw INEC’s server, the witness said: “No my lord, I couldn’t have seen it because I am not INEC official, I only worked as an ad-hoc staff for the election.
“The INEC official said the server existed and that was where we transmitted results to.”
Immediately the witness who ended his testimony, one of the lawyers in the camp of the petitioners, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, informed the tribunal that the matter could not continue in view of attack on the other witnesses.
“My lords information we just got is that some of the witnesses we scheduled for this afternoon were waylaid by armed men while on their way. They were coming from Zamfara.
“This is a matter in which our witnesses are coming from far places,” Chief Uche, SAN, told the court.
Corroborating the report, Atiku’s lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, said: “To confirm, I was the one that was called on the phone and I had to repeatedly go outside to receive the calls.
“I was told that some of them jumped inside the bush and up till now most of them have not been seen while some were greatly injured.
“In the circumstance, we will continue on Monday.”
Sequel to the development, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Garba adjourned further hearing on the petition.
“For the information you have given to this court, proceedings in this matter are hereby adjourned till July 15, Monday.”
The petitioners who have three more days to present their case, have so far called 36 witnesses that testified before the tribunal.
Earlier before the adjournment, a local government collation agent for the PDP, Peter Sabo, alleged that President Buhari’s supporters snatched ballot boxes in Borno State.
He further alleged that neither accreditation nor voting took place in four Wards that he monitored, adding that PDP agents were chased away by security agents he said stopped them from trailing the electoral materials that were diverted.
“They did not do any accreditation but merely gave APC supporters ballot papers to go and thumb print for President Buhari.
All the allocated ballot papers meant for all the wards were thumb-printed and returned. There was no invalid vote”, the witness added.
He said he tendered a petition to the INEC, the Department of State Service, the National Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Police.
“All the records are there. Those that carried out the act are known faces”.
Similarly, another witness from Borno, Alhaji Modu Ahmed, also alleged that electoral materials were diverted to the local government lodge.
He said security agents did not allow PDP agents to enter inside the lodge.
Other witnesses included Usman Adamu and Hassan Masarauta who both served as a local government collation officers for the PDP in Yobe state.
Masaruata told the court that a former Chairman of Potiskum LGA in Yobe State who he identified as Ado Hamza Goje, harassed and intimidated civil servants, traditional title holders and farmers to vote for the APC or have themselves punished.
He said the electorates were told to either vote Buhari or lose their jobs, traditional titles and farmlands.