•We’ll only accept printout from BVAS used in Kogi, Sokoto, Rivers —INEC
•Atiku tenders 219 additional evidence •As court adjourns Obi’s petition over sudden illness of two of his key staff
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
President Bola Tinubu yesterday opposed the tendering in evidence, of information that were extracted from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines that were used for the conduct of the 2023 presidential election.
Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun, SAN, challenged the admissibility of certified copies of printouts from the BVAS, which were brought before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, by candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku had at the resumed proceedings on the petition he filed to challenge the outcome of the presidential election that held on February 25, maintained that the evidence he sought to tender, was in respect of 33 states of the federation, excluding Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Lagos state.
Though Atiku’s legal team was led by Chris Uche, SAN, however, the documents were tendered from the Bar by a member of the team, Prof. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said it was also opposed to the admissibility of the documents, except for printout of data from BVAS it deployed to three states- Kogi, Sokoto and Rivers, on its part, the APC, which was cited as the 4th respondent in the matter, threw its weight behind its candidate, Tinubu.
All the respondents said they would adduce reasons behind their objections, in their final written addresses.
Meanwhile, Jegede, SAN, told the court that the documents he tendered, were duly certified by INEC after all the necessary fees were paid.
Despite the objections, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel, went ahead and admitted the documents from the BVAS into evidence and marked them as Exhibits PT 1 to PT 33.
Among other documents that Atiku equally tendered before the court on Wednesday, were results of the presidential election from Abia, Bayelsa, Kaduna and Ogun states.
Atiku’s lawyer told the court that the certified results, which were contained in Forms EC8A, were downloaded by INEC from its I-Rev portal.
However, INEC’s team of lawyers led by Mr. Kemi Pinhero, SAN, opposed the admissibility of the downloaded election results.
Likewise, counsel that handled the session for President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, as well as the lawyer for the APC, Niyi Akintola, SAN, equally raised objections against the tendering of the results in evidence.
The Justice Tsammani-led panel admitted results of the presidential election from Abia state and marked them as Exhibits PJ, PJ1- PJ 16, even as it also marked their certification receipt as Exhibit PJ-17.
More so, the court also admitted in evidence, results of the presidential election from eight Local Government Areas in Bayelsa state and marked them as Exhibits PK 1 – 8, with the certification document marked as Exhibit PK-9.
As regards results from 23 LGAs in Kaduna state, the court marked them as Exhibits PL-1-23, while results from Ogun state were marked as Exhibits PM 1- 20.
The respondents further told the court that they would only allow the admittance in evidence, of results from five LGAs in Kogi states, which they listed as; Olamaboro, Ofu, Omala, Okehi and Ajaokuta.
Notwithstanding the position of President Tinubu and the other respondents in the matter, the court admitted bundles of Forms EC8E series from 23 LGAs in Kaduna state and marked them as Exhibits PN 1-23, even as it marked the ones from Kogi state as Exhibits PT 1- 23.
The court admitted and marked as Exhibits PQ 1- PQ 20, Forms EC8C from Kaduna state, while another 40 copies of Forms EC40G from the state were also admitted as Exhibits PR 1 to PR 40.
It further admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibits PS 1 to PC 10, copies of Form EC 40G from Ogun state, thus, taking the total number of exhibits the PDP candidate has tendered before the court, to 337.
The development came on a day the candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, persuaded the court to adjourn further proceedings on his own petition against the presidential election, till Thursday.
Obi, through his team of lawyers that were led by Prof. Awa Kalu, SAN, told the court that two of his key staff members, suddenly fell ill.
He said the indisposition of the duo, who were described as part of the engine room of his legal Secretariat, affected his plan to tender vital documents before the court to prove his allegation that the presidential election was rigged in favour of President Tinubu of the APC.
“My lords, our plan for today’s proceedings was to start with the presentation of our documents, but unfortunately, we had some unexpected development.
“The unexpected development concerns the sudden illness of two of our key staff, for which reason I am constrained to ask for an adjournment till tomorrow.
“It is with the greatest humility and apology that we make this application. I assure my lords that we will be here tomorrow morning and we will proceed with vigour,” Prof. Kalu, SAN, pleaded.
Obi’s lawyer told the court that he had before the sitting commenced, informed President Tinubu’s lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, about the development.
In his response, President Tinubu’s lawyer, Olanipekun, SAN, told the court that he was not opposed to the request for an adjournment.
Likewise, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, who appeared for INEC, as well as counsel for the APC, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, said they were equally not opposed to the request.
However, the respondents prayed the court to minus a day from the three weeks that was originally slated for Obi to present his case.
In a brief ruling, Justice Tsammani acceded to the application and adjourned the petition till Thursday.
It will be recalled that Obi and the LP had indicated their decision to call a total of 50 witnesses in the matter.
Specifically, Obi, who came third in the election, is in the joint petition he filed with the LP, contending that Tinubu was not the valid winner of the presidential election.
The petitioners, in the case marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023, equally maintained that President Tinubu was not qualified to participate in the presidential contest.
According to the petitioners, as at the time Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim 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.
Both Atiku and Obi are seeking the nullification of the presidential election and the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that was issued to President Tinubu by INEC.