By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Hearing continued before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday as a witness, Salisu Maijigiri, maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari lost in his home state, Katsina.
Maijigiri, who identified himself as Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state, was one of the 13 witnesses that testified before the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member panel tribunal.
Contrary to the official result declared by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Maijigiri, who appeared as the 4th witness (PW-4), told the tribunal that the presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar, defeated President Buhari in his state with 33,000 votes.
Responding to questions while under cross-examination, the witness, who said he served as PDP’s collation agent for the presidential election in Katsina State, claimed that contrary to what INEC declared, results collated by his party agents showed that whereas the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, garnered a total of 872,000, PDP polled 905,000.
While disputing INEC’s figures, the witness said: “We won the election, not APC. APC scored 872,000 and PDP 905,000 votes. These are our own results that we collated in our state, not the ones from the server.”
It will be recalled that INEC had declared that Buhari polled a total of 1,505,633 in the state, while his closest rival, Atiku, got 160,203 votes.
Among the witnesses that testified before the tribunal, yesterday were those that served as ad-hoc staff of INEC during the February 23 presidential election.
The witnesses took turns to insist that results of the election were electronically transmitted to a central server via “a confidential code” they said was provided by the electoral body.
Though most of the witnesses admitted that they functioned as Assistant Presiding Officer 1 at the election, they told the tribunal that they were granted access to operate and upload data from the smart card reader machines used for the election, straight to the server.
The witnesses said they were duly trained by INEC, some a day before the presidential election, while others had their training as early as 4 am on election day.
One of the witnesses, Ogunsoya Abiola, a corps member that served as an ad-hoc staff and Assistant Presiding Officer during the election, said: “We were given a code to transmit the election information to the server.
“There is a code that was given to us, the ad-hoc staff, with an instruction that after the election, we should transmit the voters’ information and result.”
Under further cross-examination, Abiola who testified as the PW-16, said they were not given the name and number of the server.
He said: “The code has a number and figure and it is confidential because we were told during the training not to reveal it to anyone.
“We were told during the training that if the smart card does not work, then election should not take place in that polling unit.”
He said all the APO-1 were trained on the morning of election on how to upload information to the server.
When he was shown a copy of the election manual, which stipulated that only a Presiding Officer could transmit result, the witness said he was surprised since he was duly trained by INEC after which he was given the confidential code.
He told the tribunal that he had access to the smart card reader, adding that the manual was not used during their training.
He said: “What they told us was that if you are an APO-1, you will have access to the smart card reader and that we should use it to transmit results.
“That was why they issued us the code. In my polling unit, it was not the Presiding Officer that uploaded the information to the server, I did it myself, with the supervision of the Presiding Officer.”
The 17th witness, Mr. Uchenna Umeh, said he was the Assistant Presiding Officer 1 at Galadima, Gwarimpa in Abuja, and handled the Smart Card Reader.
He told the tribunal that he transmitted results electronically to INEC’s server, using the smart card reader.
“In the course of the training, they did not tell us where the server was located, they only told us to upload to INEC server and that only the APO-1 are to know the code and we should not disclose it to anyone.”
2 more witnesses testify, insist election was rigged
Similarly, some PDP agents testified before the tribunal, alleging that the presidential election was rigged in favour of President Buhari.
One of the witnesses, Alhaji Abubakar Wabi, who appeared as the PW-18, alleged that PDP members were harassed and beaten up at polling units where Atiku led President Buhari with votes.
He told the tribunal that two PDP members, who were beaten to coma by APC agents were hospitalised.
Though he did not mention the state the incident took place, the witness said: “The petitioners polled more votes than the 2nd and 3rd respondents, leading to violence by APC supporters and their agents.”
He said the perpetrators were not charged to court “because they are members of the ruling party.”
Asked if his presence at the tribunal was due to the fact that he was aggrieved with the outcome of the election, the witness said: “Actually, this election was marred by irregularities. If the election is free and fair, I will not be displeased. But I am displeased because the election was not free and fair.”
Meanwhile, the tribunal adjourned further hearing on the petition against President Buhari’s re-election till Thursday.
So far, the petitioners have called a total of 19 witnesses in their bid to prove their allegation that the presidential election result declared by INEC was not a true reflection of the voting pattern across the federation.