Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on yesterday closed their case after calling only 62 out of the 400 they had proposed to call in their petition challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the February 23, 2019 election. The petitioners’ lawyer, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), announced the close of their case after the 62nd petitioners’ witness, Former Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka, testified.
Chidoka told the Tribunal that he had never seen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) sever. He served as the PDP’s collation agent at the National Collation Centre for the February 23, 2019 presidential election. In his evidence, he told the tribunal that INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had consistently told them about the server and also acknowledged its existence during the collation of the presidential election. He also said he served as the head of the PDP’s situation room in Abuja, where he was during the election receiving reports from the party’s agent.
The witness told the tribunal under cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN) that, “I have not seen the server but INEC consistently told us of the server and the INEC chairman at the national collation of results of the election acknowledged the existence of the server.” When asked, he said: “I was there when the results were collated.”
He acknowledged that the collation was done manually.
In his testimony, the petitioners’ 60th witness, Joseph Gbenga, an expert witness admitted before the tribunal that he had not been certified. Gbenga, an Industrial Chemistry graduate from the University of Ilorin, described himself as a database analyst and designer who was engaged by the petitioners to analyse the results of the presidential poll in 11 out of the 36 states of the federation.
But when asked under cross-examination by counsel for INEC, Usman if he had been certified to carry out the type of job he did for the petitioners, Gbenga said, “I have undergone training but I have not been certified.” He further said under cross-examination that he carried out his analysis through the inspection of result sheets from 11 states. The witness said he could not get the certified true copies for Zamfara State, and had to rely on the pink duplicate copies. He did not give the full list of the 11 states whose results he analysed. Asked, he said he was not mindful of whether or not the petitioners won or lost in the 11 states. He also said that he is not aware that the petitioners conceded defeat in eight of the 11 states. “If I applied my mind to whether or not the petitioners won or lost, I would not be able to come up with a professional and an unbiased report,” he argued.
Also testifying, an Information Communication Technology (ICT), expert from Kenya, Mr. David Njorga, yesterday, maintained before the tribunal that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), transmitted results of the February 23 presidential election, to a central server.
Njorga said he conducted analysis and findings on result of the election as was electronically transmitted to the server. He said results from the server were directly copied to a website he gave as www.factsdontlieng.com, which he said was created by an official of INEC that acted as a whistleblower. The Kenyan who testified as the PW-58, tendered a copy of the subpoena that was issued for him to appear before the tribunal.
While INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman, SAN, and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, said they were not opposed to admissibility of the subpoena, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, challenged it, adding that his client has given his reasons in his final written address. The document was admitted and marked as exhibit P-91 by the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member panel tribunal.
Under cross-examination, Njorga, who was described as an “Expert Witness”, admitted that he was not in Nigeria when the presidential election took place but noted that confirmation from a global ICT tool, WHOIS.com, revealed that the website that contained data from the sever began to function on March 12 when the domain name was registered.
Asked if the essence of the website was to ensure that people had access to election results as they were being transmitted, the witness said: “If you look at information explicitly put on the website by the author who is an INEC official, those were data from the server.
“The INEC official is anonymous. It is a whistleblower.” Asked if the whistle-blower could be a robot, he said: “My lords robots do not create websites”, adding that it was international best practice to shield identity of the INEC official. The witness acknowledged that the website from which he conducted his analysis does not belong to INEC.
“It does not belong to INEC but the data it contained were from INEC servers. I have never worked for the INEC before”, he added. He said he used scientific methods to trace the source of the data. Asked if he was aware that the IP address has been used by many corporate organizations all over the world, he said it was true. Asked why he did not attach his certificates to his statement on oath, the witness said: “My lords, I am a professional. I have the certificates with me. If you like, I can show it.”
The witness further told the tribunal that INEC managed four websites, saying it was not correct that none of them contained the data he analysed. He said Exhibit A5 contained extract from all the websites. Asked if he was aware that the Presidential Result Sheet that had all the results that were announced by INEC was opened on March 24, the witness said he was not sure. Asked if he was aware that one Mr. Dinita created the INEC App, the witness said he does not know.
Under further cross-examination, the witness said if granted the access, he could decrypt every data in INEC server. When he was handed one of the exhibits he claimed contained some printouts from the server, the witness said he was not authorised to decrypt them. “Technically, I can, but I am not authorised to reveal this data”, saying only the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, could grant him access to decrypt data in the server. “I will decrypt the data and it will confirm that the information on the website were from the direct source.”
Insisting that he linked the website to the server, the witness said: “I am well experienced in Information/Data Sciences and I use scientific methods which any expert can confirm.” He said it was possible for someone to use the same scientific methods he used to gain access to the server, to tamper with its contents. He said contents of the server could be changed through the same method. The witness however refused to disclose the name of who engaged and paid him to undertake the assignment. “My lords, I was not paid for this job, only my logistics were paid for.”
Asked if it was not important to state in his expert report before the tribunal who engaged him and the scope of his assignment, the witness said: “That is true, but as an expert who belongs to various bodies of knowledge, the method I used was what is approved.”
In the meantime, the five-man tribunal led by Justice Mohammed Garba has adjourned to July 29 for the 1st respondent, the Independent National Electoral Commission, to open up its defence.