By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, failed to persuade the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, to reject 48 video clips Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, tendered in support of their case against his re-election.
In a unanimous decision, the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member tribunal, admitted the video exhibits in evidence, even as it gave the petitioners the nod to play three of them in the open court.
The 48 Video Compact Discs,VCDs, which were tendered through Atiku’s media aide, Segun Showunmi, were marked as exhibits P-36 to P-83, while the Certificate of Compliance was admitted as exhibit P-84.
Showunmi appeared as the 40th witness of the petitioners who are challenging the outcome of the February 23 presidential election that was declared in favour of President Buhari of All Progressives Congress, APC.
The petitioners had through their lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, notified the tribunal of their decision to adduce and play some video clips to substantiate the petition, especially as it relates to their claim that INEC transmitted results of the presidential poll to a central server, as well as the allegation that President Buhari does not possess the requisite educational qualification to contest.
Determined to allow the tribunal judges to watch the clips, the petitioners brought a big television and video machine to the court.
However, all the respondents to the petition, INEC, President Buhari and the APC, vehemently challenged the admissibility of the exhibits and any attempt to play the videos.
They contended that the exhibits were not front-loaded by the petitioners, insisting that admitting it in evidence would amount to clear breach of Paragraphs 4(6c) and 41(2) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act.
Owing to the development, the tribunal stood down the proceeding for about an hour, after which it reconvened and dismissed the objections.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Garba, held that all the parties had agreed during the pre-hearing stage of the petition to only indicate their objection to any evidence sought to be tendered, and reserve their reasons for the written address.
He said all the parties were bound by the agreement and could not renege or deliberately deviate from any of the terms.
Besides, Justice Garba noted that according to the agreement, no particular or specific document was excluded from being tendered from the Bar.
“The document now tendered from the Bar is clearly within the terms of agreement adopted by parties,” he held.
Consequently, the panel allowed the petitioners to play three of the videos, while the respondents cross-examined the witness who was Atiku’s spokesperson before the presidential election.
The 3 video clips
Meanwhile, the three video clips played in the open court, included an interview the Resident Electoral Commission of INEC in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Iginni, granted on Sunday Politics programme of Channels Television, wherein he maintained that results of the presidential election would be transmitted to INEC’s central server.
In the second clip, army officials, in a press conference carried by Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, denied Buhari’s claim that his West African School Certificate was with the army.
In the interview, the army stated that neither the original copy, the Certified True Copy nor statement of Buhari’s WAEC was in his personal file.
In the third video, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, was seen at a meeting addressing members of Computer Professionals Practitioners in Nigeria and expressed hope that results of the 2019 poll would be electronically transmitted.
In the video, the INEC boss said the commission was determined to deploy the ICT technology, within the law to enhance the electoral process.
Under cross-examination, Showunmi said he was aware that the INEC chairman granted many interviews and issued statements before the elections.
Asked by INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman, SAN, if he did not hear a later interview where Yakubu, on February 5, said electronic transmission would not be possible, Showunmi said: “I must have only been exposed to where he said electronic transmission was possible.”
When it was his turn to cross-examine the witness, President Buhari’s lawyer, Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, in a bid to prove that INEC boss had indicated that results would not be electronically transmitted, brought out his own video CD he sought to be played.
At that juncture, counsel to the petitioners, Uche, said he was opposed to allowing President Buhari’s lawyer to play the CD with the equipment they brought before the tribunal.
He said: “He can show the CD to the witness, all I am saying is don’t play it with our equipment”.
As Uche was still speaking, a lawyer in his team switched off the TV set, an action that drew the ire of counsel to all the respondents.
“My lords, can you imagine the effrontery? What sort of thing is really going on here that a junior will go and switch off the TV,” counsel to APC, Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, fumed.
Similarly, Iziyon, SAN, insisted that the action of the lawyer amounted to gross misconduct, even as he begged to be allowed to play the CD for two minutes.
Responding, counsel to the petitioners, Uche said: “My lords, the TV is our own. The CD was not made by this witness and he cannot be cross-examined on it.
“Second, in the digital world, there is something that is called virus. This CD can have the capacity of corrupting our equipment. If they like they can bring their own equipment and come and play, we have no objection to that, even though it was not pleaded by the 2nd respondent.”
Before he adjourned further proceedings till today to enable President Buhari’s lawyer to play the CD, Justice Garba said he was unable to see any form of misconduct on the part of the lawyer that switched off the TV.