The Presidential Election Petition Court (PREPEC) presided by Justice Haruna Tsammani, on Monday, admitted in evidence the Final Report of the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOB) on the last general election.
The report tendered by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, was admitted amidst objections from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Bola Tinubu and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), who are 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents respectively in the petition filed by Atiku and his party, the PDP.
This emerged just as INEC on Monday, failed to open its defence in the petition of Mr. Peter Obi challenging the election of Tinubu.
The EU EOB report tendered by Atiku’s lead lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, who pointed out that the report indicted the electoral umpire for failing to keep to its promise of a transparent, free and fair elections.
Uche drew the court’s attention to a paragraph of the report which stated that, “only 31 per cent of the presidential election results were uploaded unto the IReV,” as at when INEC announced Tinubu winner, revealing the deficiency in the training of INEC’s adhoc staff.
Uche tendered the EU’s report at the resumed hearing in the petition of Atiku challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential election.
The court had on June 23, adjourned for the respondents to open their defence in the petition seeking to nullify Tinubu’s victory over alleged irregularities, corrupt practices and non-compliance with the electoral laws amongst others.
Atiku had before closing his case brought in 27 witnesses including experts and INEC’s adhoc staff who corroborated his allegations that INEC deliberately manipulated the election process especially the handling of the technological aspect supposed to have enhanced the credibility of the 2023 general elections.
Amongst the allegations were that INEC deliberately refused to transmit the presidential election results electronically as promised, as Presiding Officers in their individual testimonies confirmed that they could not transmit the presidential election results in the Bi-modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) machines to the INEC’s Results Viewing (IReV) portals as expected.
The witnesses had also informed the five-member panel that they had to take the results to their various wards for onward transmission by their superiors.
The Presiding Officers had blamed their inability to transmit the presidential results on some technical glitches, although they could not tell if the glitch occurred within the BVAS or network of transmission to the IReV.
However, at Monday’s proceedings, INEC called its only witness in the case filed by Atiku, its Director of Information Technology (IT), Dr. Lawrence Bayode, who informed the court how the technical glitch was handled at their Cloud Trail Log downloaded from their account with the Amazon Web Service (AWS).
He explained that the Cloud Trail Log is a device used to monitor their account with AWS.
He also told the court that the technical glitch or glitches did not affect actual scores of candidates in the election because once stored in the BVAS it remains intact.
Besides, the witness informed the court that INEC, “does not have a collation system,” hence the collation of the election results were done manually.
However, under cross examination by Uche, the witness who claimed to have supervised the configuration of the BVAS, said the device does have an in-built mechanism to select or distinguish presidential election results from the National Assembly results conducted the same day with the same machines.
He also admitted that as at March 1, when INEC declared Tinubu as winner of the presidential election not all the results from the election had been uploaded unto the IReV.
He also admitted that INEC did not have to file a formal report of the said glitches to AWS because they didn’t need to, adding that the glitches happened only on the e-transmission system and not on the BVAS.
Bayode also stated that he cannot tell if Tinubu scored only 19 per cent of the votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the last presidential poll.
Earlier, Uche had succeeded in getting the court to reverse the cross examination procedure, arguing that since all the respondents were on one side, it would not be fair for him to lead the cross examination session, adding that Tinubu and APC’s cross examination of the witness who is also on the side of the respondents would only amount to a re-examination.
At the end of cross examination however, Mahmoud announced that the 1st respondent was closing its defence in the matter of Atiku against Tinubu.
Subsequently, Justice Tsammani ordered Tinubu and APC to open their defence today.
Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, the inability of the first respondent, INEC to open its case according to the commission’s lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, was due to the unavailability of witnesses it planned to call in defence of the disputed February 25, 2023, presidential election that produced Tinubu as President.
A five member-panel of the PREPEC, presided by Justice Tsammani had on June 23, adjourned hearing in the petition by candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, to July 3.
The adjournment was to enable the respondents, which included Tinubu, his Vice, Senator Kashim Shettima and the All Progressives Congress (APC), open their defence of the victory of Tinubu and the APC at the presidential poll.
Obi had closed his case after calling 13 witnesses and had tendered documentary and video evidence to prove that INEC allegedly manipulated the February 25 presidential election in favour of Tinubu and the APC.
When the matter came up on Monday, rather than opening its defence, INEC informed the court that although it had planned to call three witnesses to defend the results of the presidential election, it could not do so because of the unavailability of the 1st witness scheduled for the day.
According to him, the first witness had called him earlier to explain that he could no longer make it to the court due to some family emergencies.
While praying the court adjourned the matter till the next day when the witness would be around, Mahmoud stated that the Commission would use three days for the three witnesses and then closed its defence.
Responding, Obi and LP, represented by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, expressed sadness over the development but did not object to INEC ‘s request for adjournment.
Same with Chief Wole Olanipakun, who represented Tinubu and Shettima and Lateef Fagbemi, who represented the APC.
Following the no-objection, Justice Tsammani subsequently adjourned to today, for INEC to open its case defence.
Peter Obi’s legal team mocked INEC after the electoral management body failed to open its defence.
Speaking with newsmen outside the court premises, Uzoukwu said the action of INEC was further evidence that the electoral body was not ready to defend the outcome of the 2023 presidential election in court.
Uzoukwu, while mocking the excuse of domestic reasons given by the commission, said: “I am sure that they are not ready to defend this case. I stand to be proved wrong but I wish they defend this matter so that the public will come to see more things.
“I continue to say that we have never had an election like this last one.”
Chuks Okocha and Alex Enumah in Abuja