The hearing resumed before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja yesterday, with a collation agent, Mr. Bukar Petrol, narrating how the Civilian Joint Task Force, JTF, allegedly rigged election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari in Borno State.
Petrol told the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-man panel tribunal that members of the JTF high-jacked the electoral process and allocated votes to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC after Boko Haram insurgents dispersed voters with five bomb attacks.
He testified as to the 27th witness of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who are challenging the declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the presidential contest that took place on February 23.
According to the witness who said he served as local government collation officer for the PDP, owing to “peculiar security situation in Borno State” occasioned by incessant Boko Haram attacks, all the polling units in Tambuwal LGA where he served, were situated at the same location.
He said: “Almost everything was done in one particular place which is the headquarters of the LGA.
There were 10 Wards and 100 polling units because of Boko Haram. It is an unfortunate situation we have in the LGA with Sambisa forest by our left and Chibok by our right.
“You cannot access any point without a security escort. What I am saying can be confirmed by security agencies. Voting started late because of the deliberate action of the electoral officers. Distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive materials did not start until 8:30 am.
“Voting started at exactly 10:03 am. I monitored to make sure materials were distributed at the various polling units.”
‘B-Haram struck on polling day’
He told the tribunal that Boko Haram struck on election day.
Narrating how the alleged rigging took place, the witness said: “After the explosion, the civilian JTF took over proceedings. They did not allow me to perform my task because I was supposed to work with other agents.
“ They took over everything from the INEC officials and exploited the situation to rig election for the APC. I reported the incident to the Divisional Police Station, the Military Intelligence, the Criminal Investigation Bureau, Head of Mopol and to the head of the National Orientation Agency.
“Though the report to my party was in writing, my report to the five agencies was verbal because I went to meet them at the collation centre and reported to them.”
Petrol’s testimony tallied with that of a witness that gave evidence before him, Adam Amsani, who told the tribunal that he refused to sign a mutilated result (sheet) that was handed to him after the presidential poll.
I refused to sign mutilated result — Witness
Amsani, who testified as to the PW-26, said he also served as a collation agent for the PDP, adding that he could not sign the result because it was altered in the form EC8A that was handed to him.
Besides, the witness alleged before the tribunal that agents of the PDP were sent out of the collation point by security personnel in conjunction with APC agents.
Alleging that the mutilation of the result was done by the State Collation Officer, he said: “I was there when the mutilation took place and I even protested. I refused to collect and sign the result at the local government because the alteration happened in front of me.”
He said it was his duty to collect result at the LG level.
Continuing, the witness, who said he served at Jere LGA of Borno State, said: “On the eve of the election, there was attack by insurgents. In fact, on election day, there were five bombings and the security agents chased away our agents. So I could not receive some of the forms”.
‘INEC announced results in more than 200 polling units without voters’
On his part, Mr Nicholas Usheliza who said he served as the state collation agent for the PDP, alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced results in over 200 polling units in Borno State that had zero accreditation of voters.
Usheliza, who appeared as the 23rd witness, told the tribunal that due to activities of insurgents, he found it difficult to visit some locations.
He alleged that the total result INEC declared for the state, which he gave as 919786, was above the total number of accredited voters.
He further alleged that the State Collation Officer for the state repeatedly directed the INEC officials that brought the results to go and reconcile them to ensure they matched the total number of returned votes.
The PW-23 told the tribunal that he also received reports from his party agents on what transpired at their various polling units, saying he refused to sign the final copy of the presidential result.
“Over 200 polling units across Borno had zero accreditation voters even when results were credited for those units under insurgency”.
Asked under cross-examination if he could remember all the units that had no accreditation but got results, the witness said: “My lords how can I be able to remember all the 200 units?”
Asked if he could remember the total number of accredited voters, the witness said: “I may not exactly know the total number of accredited voters. All I know is that the number of accredited voters was less than the result.
“In the course of transferring figures from the Local Government result sheet to the state, wrong computations were made.
“Because of that, the State Collation Officer kept telling them to go and work on the result sheet to ensure that it tallied with the result.
“Every result of tendered were mutilated. In other words, there was no result tendered that did not have calculation errors and I rejected them.”
He alleged that the mutilation of result occurred in 27 LGAs in Borno State and 311 Wards.
Asked to state the figures that were illegally awarded to the affected polling units, the witness said: “I am not in a position to tell you what the figures are in these polling units.
“My problem is that some of these LG collation officers are Ph.D holders but they could not do simple arithmetic of plus and minus. All the results had errors that the collation officer always asked them to go back and reconcile and come back.”
Asked to tell the tribunal what the presidential result for Borno ought to be, the witness said: “The correct results were the ones we forwarded to our party through the agents. I am not in a position to give the figures now, but if you want I can tender the document”.
Asked if he was aware that as at December 1983, President Buhari was already the Head of State, the witness said: “Yes, he was there through the barrel of the gun. He was there till 1985 when he was also overthrown by the barrel of the gun.”
Asked if he ever listened to President Buhari’s broadcasts, he said: “As at that time, we were more interested in hearing the martial music. Yes, I heard him, but at that time I don’t think it was time for me to understand what he was saying. Yes, those addresses were in the English language.”
Asked if he moved around during the election, the witness said: “My lords, Borno is a peculiar state. It is not possible for me to move around because of the security situation.
“All the results that came into the collation centre were brought in already collated. I was not there when the collation took place.
“With respect to all the LGAs, we rejected their results, I have written to my party. At one point, the State Collation Officer told me that if I was not comfortable with what was done that I should go to court.”
PDP and Atiku called nine witnesses at the resumed hearing, making it a total of 28 witnesses they have so far called to support their joint petition against the outcome of the presidential poll.
Other witnesses that appeared on Thursday gave evidence with respect to how the election was conducted in Kaduna and Bauchi states.
Votes wrongly credited to APC in Kaduna — Witness
Major Yahaya Shikko, who appeared as the PW-20, PDP, told the panel that he served as LG Agent for the PDP in Kaduna State where he said scores were wrongly credited to APC.
“I complained and refused to sign the result because of the abnormalities that affected the result,” he added, saying there were over-voting and illegal allocation of results to the APC. He alleged that the presidential election result was doctored in his presence.
The PW-21, Jafaru Usman, who also served as LG collation agent for the PDP in Kaduna State, insisted that the presidential election in Zaria was rigged in favour of the APC.
Usman, who is a lawyer, said he signed the Form EC8C, the local government area result sheets, not as authentication of what was contained in it, but as a witness.
Under cross-examination by Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Usman said though the polling unit results contained in Forms EC8A ought to be transmitted to the ward result sheets (Forms EC8B) and then transmitted to the local government result sheet (Form EC8C), he said it was not the case in his area
“The correct results were not transmitted,” Usman said.
Asked if he signed the Form EC8C, he said: “I signed in line with the provision of the Electoral Act. I signed it but I did not authenticate what was contained in it. I only signed as a witness in line with the Electoral Act. What I signed was not a contract. All those who were in attendance were required to sign in line with the Electoral Act.”
Asked if any of those who perpetrated the rigging were convicted in court, he said, “I made complaints, they did nothing.”
The PW-22, Dr Abdulraman Usman who served as LG collation agent for the PDP in Kaduna North, told the tribunal that forms EC8C were the result ought to have been entered, was not available in his polling unit.
He told the court that as at the time he graduated from ABU Zaria, Buhari was the military head of state.
Asked if he was aware that Buhari had at that time visited some universities and government agencies, the witness answered in the affirmative, saying as an undergraduate, he heard Buhari addressing the nation in English.
On the presidential election, he said: “I voted after I was accredited. The Electoral Act did not provide for manual accreditation so I was accredited with the Card Reader”.
He said he did not sign the election result “because of what was contained in the form EC8C”.
The witness told the tribunal that Kaduna North has four LGAs he said could be covered within one and half hour.
“There were 408 polling units in Kaduna North. I visited about 45 polling units on the day of the election. I couldn’t have gone round the 408 polling units. What I am saying is what I saw not what I was told by someone else.
“I witnessed accreditation in some of the polling units I visited but not in all the 45 polling units. I witnessed voting and also collation in at least 10 polling units”.
The PW-24, John Makama, identified himself as the Ward Collation Officer of the PDP in Kaduna State.
He alleged that there was unlawful cancellation of election results in polling units where the petitioners got a higher number of votes.
Makama told the tribunal that the cancellation, which he said affected 31 out of 131 polling units, was done at the LG Collation Centers.
He alleged that the cancellations affected areas that were Atiku’s strongholds and where PDP had dominance in Kaduna State.
“I personally visited some of these wards and I saw it myself. The cancellation was not done at the polling unit level. It was done at the LG level.
“Results had already been announced at the polling units with people jubilating, only for the results to be cancelled at the LG level,” he added.
The PW-25, Kalid Yalwakibau, said he observed a case of intimidation and harassment of voters by APC agents.
Specifically, he told the tribunal that a House of Representatives candidate of the APC, Hamisu Ibrahim and another candidate of the party, Shehu Yunusa, led the attack on PDP supporters.
Asked if the duo had been prosecuted, the witness said: “We reported the incidents, but to the best of my knowledge, till now I don’t know if anything was done about it”.
The PW-28, Yau Yusuf, who served as LG returning agent for the PDP in Bauchi state, said he was intimidated by APC agents.
He alleged that result of the election was changed at INEC office where he said the APC was credited with more votes, alleging that the initial result was destroyed.
He said: “The original result was torn by an agent of the APC right in the presence of the electoral officer in my LGA.
“After the result was torn, they were reproduced in the same INEC office. Police collected the torn result as evidence to prosecute the culprit”.
Asked where the reproduced result is, the witness said it should be with INEC. Asked if he was forced to sign the result, the witness said: “I only signed the form to enable me to obtain a copy because if I did not sign, it will be assumed that I was absent”.
Meanwhile, the tribunal admitted into evidence, Manual On Election Technologies, which the petitioners tendered through their lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, SAN.
The document, as well as the certification receipt, were marked as exhibits P 33 and P 33A.
The Justice Garba-led tribunal subsequently adjourned the further hearing on the petition till Friday.