By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
A witness, Mr Ibrahim Hamza, on Monday, told the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, that he was forced under duress, to sign the results of the presidential election in Nasarawa state.
Hamza, who testified before Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel as the 10th Petitioners’ Witness, PW-10, said he served as a state collation agent for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, during the presidential election that was held on February 25.
He told the court that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said they would not give him a copy of the election result unless he signed it.
“Myself and other agents of the party signed the result under duress. They threatened that we would not be issued a copy unless we signed the results.”
The witness told the court that there were a total of 3,256 polling units in the state, adding that his party, PDP, had agents in all the units and wards in the state.
When he was shown a copy of the presidential result from Nasarawa state which was already in evidence before the court, the witness, alleged that it was mutilated, insisting that what he signed was a clean copy.
He said from the result before the court, the Labour Party won the presidential election with a total of 191,361 votes, representing 35.40% of votes cast in Nasarawa state.
Hamza told the court that at the point when the results were to be uploaded after the election, INEC’s system failed.
Earlier in the proceedings, the Chairman of the PDP in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Alhaji Mohammed Madaki, told the court that going by “purported results” of the presidential election that was published by INEC, the candidate of his party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, failed to secure the constitutionally mandatory 25% votes from the FCT, Abuja.
Led in evidence by counsel for Atiku and the PDP, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, the witness, identified the result of the election from the FCT, which was already in evidence before the court as Exhibit PC-37.
While being cross-examined by counsel for the INEC, Mr. Abdullahi Aliu, the FCT PDP Chairman, told the court that the law made it mandatory that for a candidate to be declared winner of a presidential election, such candidate must score 25% of votes in FCT.
Asked if he was aware that going by his position on 25% votes in the FCT, his candidate, Atiku, was not qualified to be declared winner of the presidential election, the witness, said: “Yes, by the purported result published by INEC, he is not entitled to be returned as President.”
He told the court that the normal practice was that copies of the presidential election are snapped at polling units and uploaded to INEC’s I-Rev portal.
Alhaji Madaki told the court that PDP had agents across all the polling units, adding that agents of the party also signed result of the presidential election from the FCT.
While being cross-examined by President Bola Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, the witness, told the court that there were a total of 2, 822 polling units in the FCT.
Also responding to questions from counsel for the All Progressives Congress, APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the witness said he has lived in the FCT for over 35 years.
He told the court that he personally wrote his witness statement on oath at a business center and took the same to his lawyer for examination.
When he was presented with a document to read before the court, the witness, said he could not see the letters without his reading glasses which he said broke Sunday night.
Asked to tell the court the meaning of “conscientiously” that was contained in his statement, the witness, replied: “Honestly, I cannot remember.”
When he was asked if he was aware that there are a total of 176, 606 polling units across Nigeria, the witness, said he was not aware.
Shortly after Alhaji Madaki was discharged by the court, the ninth witness, PW-9, Mr. Abraham David, who mounted the box, told the court that he served as an agent of the PDP in the FCT, during the election.
The PW-9, told the court that Atiku, being the presidential candidate of his party, scored only 15% of votes in the FCT.
Asked under cross-examination, if he was aware that Atiku did not secure up to 25% votes in the FCT and therefore, going by argument of his party, not qualified to be returned as winner of the presidential poll, Mr. David, said: “I agree that having not score 25%, he is not entitled to be returned as President. Even Tinubu too did not also score 25%.
“If it was not wrong to return Tinubu who did not score 25%, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar can also be returned. The person that was returned by INEC did not score 25% in the FCT,” the witness insisted.
He told the court that he visited about 15 polling units in the FCT during the presidential election, saying though he witnessed the collation process, results, were however not transmitted to INEC I-Rev as required by the law.
The witness told the court that the collation of the presidential result in the FCT took about three days, alleging that INEC officials compromised the electoral process.
Asked to mention the names of INEC officials that were involved in the alleged electoral malpractice, the witness said he did not know their names.
It will be recalled that one leg of the joint petition that Atiku and the PDP filed to challenge the outcome of the presidential election, was that President Tinubu of the APC, was that he did not secure at least one-quarter of the votes cast in the presidential election in the FCT, Abuja.
The petitioners argued that out of the total votes of 478,652 cast in the FCT, Abuja, Tinubu, was ascribed only 90,902 (18.99%) of the votes.
“The Petitioners shall contend that to be declared duly elected, a candidate, in addition to obtaining not less than a quarter (25%) of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of all the States, must also receive at least one quarter (25%) of the votes cast in the FCT, Abuja, this being an additional requirement introduced by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the said Constitution having clearly distinguished the FCT, Abuja as a separate entity by specific and express mention,” they added.
Meanwhile, the Justice Tsammani-led panel has at the beginning of the proceedings on Monday, heard the evidence of a former Minister of Transportation and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers state, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who appeared as the PW7,
Sekibo, in his evidence-in-chief, tendered a letter of appointment the party issued him as its Coordinator for the Presidential Election and it was admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibits PU.
He identified Exhibit PC-32, which is already before the court, as a result of the presidential election from Rivers State as announced by INEC.
Under cross-examination, the witness insisted that Atiku won the presidential election in Rivers state, even though he accused President Tinubu and the APC of instigating violence that scared electorates away from many polling units.
Dr Sekibo, who told the court that he voted in his Local Government Area, Okirika, further alleged that the results of the election were not uploaded across about 6000 polling units in the state.
He said: “I was in my Local Government Area on the election day and I voted. I was verified, using the BVAS device.
“The accreditation took less than five minutes and I was thereafter given the ballot and I voted. I stayed for a while at my polling unit, for about 10 minutes before I left.
“Thereafter I left to see what was going on and came back to my unit when they started counting. I was there when they finished and unfortunately, the result could not be uploaded.
“The result sheet was filed in my presence and signed by party agents. I also witnesses results being collated in more than polling units at different times. There are more than 6000 polling units in Rivers state.
“In almost all the polling units, having concluded the election they could not upload. This happened across the entire state.”
Asked if he was aware that the 20 polling units he visited, out of the over 6000 polling units in the state, amounted to about 0.5%, the witness, said: “I will leave the calculation for mathematics”.
Asked to mention the names of the agents that harassed voters and stopped uploading of the results, he said; “I don’t need to know their names. But by their actions, one could know who sent them”.
On the alleged violence on the election day, Dr. Sekibo, said: “I received calls from our members that were asking to be rescued. We immediately responded and started heading to Obio/Akpor after I got the call, but we were blocked.”
Asked if he was physically present at any of the LGAs where his party members were attacked, the witness said he was not there.
While being cross-examined by counsel for the APC, Prince Fagbemi, SAN, the witness, admitted that agents of the party he said were attacked during the election, are still alive.
Asked why he did not mention names of perpetrators of the violence in his statement on oath before the court, the witness, said: “I didn’t have to. What they were doing in the field showed who they were. By the action they carried out, we knew whose interest they were protecting.”
Asked if he was aware that in the 2023 elections, votes were not based on political party lines, as the PDP, won the presidential election in Katsina, Dr Sekibo, replied: “The PDP won the governorship election in Rivers State and we are saying that we also won the presidential election. I am not from Katsina”.
He told the court that he was not the person that signed the results of the presidential in Rivers state.
The court adjourned further hearing till Tuesday.