….adjourns further hearing till Wednesday
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
Candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr Peter Obi, who is insisting that he won the 2023 presidential election, on Tuesday, tendered in evidence, certified copies of collated ward results from 342 Local Government Areas, LGAs, in 17 States of the federation.
The results, which were contained in Forms EC8B of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were tendered before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja.
The states that the court admitted their collated presidential election ward results, in evidence, were; Adamawa, Bayelsa, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Sokoto, Delta, Ekiti, Imo, Kaduna, Oyo, Cross River, Edo, Akwa Ibom and Lagos.
The counsel that tendered the exhibits on behalf of Obi and the LP, Mr. Ben Anachebe, SAN, told the court that his clients would subsequently produce the collated ward results from Ebonyi state.
Meanwhile, the INEC, President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, APC, who are respondents in the matter, opposed the admissibility of the results in evidence.
The respondents, through their respective lawyers, said they would adduce reasons for their objections, in their final written address.
However, notwithstanding the objections, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel admitted all the results in evidence and marked them as Exhibits.
Specifically, the ward results the court admitted in evidence were from 21 LGAs in Adamawa, 8 LGAs in Bayelsa, 23 LGAs in Benue, 21 LGAs in Kogi and 11 LGAs in Nasarawa.
Others were from 25 LGAs in Niger state, 18 LGAs in Ondo, 23 LGAs in Sokoto, 25 LGAs in Delta, 11 LGAs in Ekiti, 26 LGAs in Imo and 21 LGAs in Kaduna.
Likewise, results from 27 LGAs in Oyo, 18 LGAs in Cross River, 15 LGAs in Edo, 31 LGAs in Akwa Ibom, as well as 20 LGAs in Lagos state, were also admitted in evidence by the court.
The court adjourned further proceedings in the matter till Wednesday to enable the petitioners to also tender Forms EC8C series, which are collated results from various LGAs in the country.
Meantime, considering the fact that the three weeks period the court allotted for the petitioners to present their case, Obi, on Tuesday, hinted that he may scale down the number of witnesses he initially lined up to testify in the matter.
Obi’s lawyer, Anachebe, SAN, who made the disclosure to newsmen at the end of the proceedings, said his team has made appreciable progress in the matter in view the number of documentary evidence that has been tendered before the court.
“Yes, we initially said we will call about 50 witnesses, but with what we have achieved so far and the time that is still available, we may end up not calling that number of witnesses,” he added.
So far, the petitioners have only produced a lone witness that testified before the court.
It will be recalled that the LP candidate who came third in the election had approached the court to challenge the declaration of President Tinubu of the APC as winner of the presidential contest.
Obi, in the joint petition he filed with his party, maintained that President Tinubu was not the valid winner of the election.
The petitioners, in their case marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023, equally contended that President Tinubu was not qualified to participate in the presidential poll.
According to the petitioners, as at the time Tinubu’s running mate, Shettima, became the Vice Presidential candidate, he was still the nominated candidate of the APC for the Borno Central Senatorial election.
The petitioners further challenged Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the presidential election, alleging that he was previously indicted and fined the sum of $460,000.00 by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483, for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.
On the ground that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non- compliance with the provision of Electoral Act, 2022, the petitioners argued that INEC acted in breach of its own Regulations and Guidelines.
The Petitioners argued that the electoral body was in the course of the conduct of the presidential poll, mandatorily required to prescribe and deploy technological devices for the accreditation, verification, continuation and authentication of voters and their particulars as contained in its Regulations.
They are, therefore, praying the court to among other things, declare that all the votes recorded for Tinubu and the APC, were wasted votes owing to his non-qualification/disqualification.
“That it be determined that on the basis of the remaining votes (after discountenancing the votes credited to the 2nd Respondent) the 1st Petitioner (Obi) scored a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and had not less than 25% of the votes cast in at least 2/3 of the States of the Federation, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the 25th February 2023 presidential election.
“That it be determined that the 2nd Respondent having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the presidential election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on 25th February 2023.
In the alternative, the petitioners, want an order cancelling the election and compelling INEC to conduct a fresh election at which Tinubu, Shettima and the APC, listed as 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents, respectively, shall not participate.
They urged the court to declare that since Tinubu was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast in the election, therefore, his return as the winner of the presidential election, was unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.
In a further alternative prayer, the petitioners want the court to hold that the presidential election was void on the ground that it was not conducted substantially in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, and the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Likewise, they applied for an order, “cancelling the presidential election conducted on 25th February 2023 and mandating the 1st Respondent to conduct a fresh election for the President, the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Aside from Obi, a former Vice President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who came second in the election, also filed a petition to be declared as the rightful winner of the presidential contest.