By Tayo AFOLABI
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) sitting in Abuja was on Thursday, told by a subpoenaed witness who was an ad-hoc staff of the electoral body during the February 25 general elections that the election was peaceful but presidential election results were unable to be transmitted along with other results.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) presiding officer, Egwumah Omachonu Friday, reported that he was unable to transmit the presidential election results to INEC server despite being able to transmit Senate and House of Representatives election results at the time.
Friday was led in evidence by Chief Chris Uche (SAN), the lead counsel to the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party, who are the petitioners, stated that he served at the 017-polling unit of Abia state.
Another subpoenaed witness, Grace Timothy, a presiding officer for one of the polling units in Plateau State on her part, told the PEPC that the election was peaceful and went well.
Earlier, President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) opposed the bid by the petitioners to engage ad-hoc staff of INEC to give evidence in their joint petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
In their bid to establish the allegation of irregularities in the conduct of presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and his party had subpoenaed three ad-hoc workers of INEC to give firsthand account of their experiences as they relate to the February 25 presidential election.
They had specifically requested them to offer explanations on how the results of the presidential election were transmitted and carried out.
Meanwhile, Tinubu, represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) , objected to the tendering of statements on oath made by the witnesses before the Court.
The grouse of the President and the APC was that the statements of the ad-hoc workers were not front loaded at the time of filing the petition.
Olanipekun, who cited several provisions of the law against the use of the statements of the witnesses argued that since they were subpoenaed by the petitioners, they ought to have front loaded their statements on oath along with the petition.
He asked the Court to reject the witnesses and discountenance their statements on grounds of violating the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
Tinubu’s arguments against the subpoenaed witnesses were adopted by the counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) who appeared for INEC.
However, Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) asked the Court to dismiss the objections on the grounds that they were utterly misplaced and misconceived and argued that the objections by Tinubu, APC and INEC were deliberate ploy designed to delay the hearing of the petition.
Uche insisted that the statements of the subpoenaed witnesses could not have been front loaded along with the petition because they have not been summoned at the time of filing the petition.
He asked the Court to discountenance the objections of the three respondents and hold that they are not regular additional witnesses envisaged in the law cited by Olanipekun.
The Court stood down for ruling and when it reconvened, the Presiding Justice, Justice Haruna Tsammani announced that ruling in the objections had been reserved and ordered that the evidence of the three subpoenaed witnesses be taken and the respondents to cross examine them.
Meanwhile, further hearing of the petition continues on Friday June 9.