…..we won’t call any witness to defend petition, Buhari, APC, INEC tell tribunal
…..as panel fixes August 5 for adoption
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Hope Democratic Party, HDP, on Monday, closed its case in the petition it lodged before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election.
The party and its presidential candidate, Chief Ambrose Owuru rested their case after they called one witness that testified before the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member panel tribunal.
The petitioners equally tendered some documents that comprised of Certified True Copies of Newspaper publications, final list of presidential candidates the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, released before the February 23 presidential poll, as well as a report of a referendum purportedly conducted by Citizens Observers Referendum/Election Right Protection of Nigeria.
All the documents were admitted into evidence and marked as Exhibits P1 to P10, though all the respondents to the petition challenged their admissibility but agreed to give reasons in their final written addresses.
Respondents to the petition are President Buhari, INEC and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Meanwhile, before the tribunal fixed August 5 for adoption of final and addresses by all the parties, the petitioners, through their lone witness, Mr. Yusuf Ibrahim, insisted that they defeated President Buhari at a referendum they said held on February 16.
Under cross-examination, the witness told the tribunal that the said referendum was not spiritually conducted as was alleged by APC’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN.
He admitted that though INEC was the body with statutory powers conduct and regulate election in Nigeria, he said a referendum held for “people’s voice to be heard.”
Asked if the referendum was celestial or something that happened in the spiritual realm, the witness said: “It was a physical one and not spiritual.”
Asked said it was neither done over the internet nor through INEC’s server.
Asked why he did not attach to his statement on oath, any document to back the claim that Owuru won the said referendum with over 50million votes, the witness said the evidence was with their lawyer.
Fielding question from President Buhari’s lawyer, Yusuf Ali, SAN, the witness said he was one of the people that participated in the February 16, referendum.
Under further cross-examination, he admitted that he also voted during the presidential and National Assembly elections that held on February 23.
Ibrahim told the tribunal that he was aware that President Buhari was subsequently declared the winner of the presidential contest.
Responding to a question by INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Yunus Usman, SAN, Ibrahim said his party and its candidate were not seeking to be declared winners based on the outcome of the February 23 presidential Poll, but on the strength of the referendum.
Shortly after Ibrahim was discharged from the witness box, counsel to the petitioners, Eze Nnayenlugo, attempted to introduce another witness.
The second witness, Peter Ugbe, who was subpoenaed to appear before the tribunal and testify, was already in the box when head of the panel, Justice Garba observee that his statement on oath was not attached to the petition.
Consequently, the petitioners applied to withdraw him as a witness, even as they closed their case.
Meantime, all the respondents told the tribunal that they would not produce any witness to defend the petition.
They said they would rely on the case of the petitioners in their final briefs of argument.
The tribunal directed all the parties to file and exchange all their processes before July 27, just as it adjourned till August 5 for adoption.
It will be recalled that the tribunal had last Thursday, rejected a motion the petitioners filed for an order that would remove President Buhari and declare their candidate, Owuru as President.
In the motion dated June 17, the petitioners further gave reasons why the tribunal should invoke its powers and order the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, to within 48 hours, swear Owuru in to replace Buhari based on the outcome of the referendum.
They maintained that the referendum took place after INEC, upon realising that President Buhari would be defeated at the poll, unilaterally postponed the originally scheduled presidential election, till February 23.
In the application entitled “Notice Of Intention To Contend”, Owuru, aside seeking to be sworn-in as President, prayed the tribunal to nullify the outcome of the February 23 presidential election on the premise that it held in substantial non compliance with the Electoral Act.
The tribunal however dismissed the application it described as “alien and extraneous” to all the laws in Nigeria.