Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A witness for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Atiku Abubakar, Bikita Ali, yesterday told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal how an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) collected $10, 000 to change result of the February 23 presidential election in Nasarawa State, in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ali, who was a ward collation agent for the PDP at the election told the tribunal that the INEC officer, Abubakar Kaura, was, however, arrested and handed over to the police.
Ali, who appeared as the 43rd witness at the tribunal, was subsequently cross-examined by counsel for INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN).
Speaking under cross-examination, Ali said: “The matter was later referred to the State CID. I was there when the official was caught. The incident happened at the Lafia Local Government Area collation center.
“It was when we collected our result from the unit, down to the ward and to the collation center that this happened.”
Asked if the INEC officer was alive and has been prosecuted, the witness said he was not aware.
He said his attention was drawn to one polling unit where he went and confirmed that the smart card reader was missing and the INEC official resorted to manual accreditation and collection of phone numbers and details of voters.
The witness further alleged that INEC officials refused to receive result of the local government area where Atiku won.
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday played a video clip at the tribunal showing the chairman of the INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, expressing reservations on the possibility of deploying electronic transmission of results for the 2019 general election.
The video is to counter the evidence of the petitioners on the existence of INEC server.
In the video played by his legal team, Yakubu, appeared in a “one-on-one interview with INEC chairman” shown on Channels Television on February 6, 23 stating the problems of communication, poor coverage of 2G, 3G, 4G networks in the country, let alone 5G that was yet to be available in Nigeria, and the issues of cyber security as militating against the possibility of deployment of electronic transmission of results during the election.
INEC chairman was seen saying in the clip that discussion with network providers was ongoing, but added: “We still need to do a lot more before we can use the technology of transmitting the results of election.”
The INEC boss listed communication and security challenges as two major reasons why results from the 2019 general election would not be transmitted electronically.
The petitioners, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, opposed the admissibility of the VCD as an exhibit.
But the five-man tribunal led by Justice Mohammed Garba asked their lawyer to reserve his objection till the final address stage.
The tribunal admitted the exhibit as P85 and the certificate of compliance accompanying it as Exhibit P86.
The petitioners had, on Monday, played four video clips to support their claims to the existence of INEC server.
The four video clips played at the Monday’s proceedings included an interview which a Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the INEC in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, granted on Sunday Politics programme of Channels Television.
Igini said in the interview that the results of the 2019 general election would be electronically transmitted to the commission’s server.
Another one showed Army officials, on Channels TV, denying Buhari’s claim that his West African School Certificate was with the Army.
The third one showed Yakubu, on Channels TV, meeting with members of Computer Professionals and Practitioners in Nigeria, where he expressed hope that the results of the 2019 general election would be electronically transmitted. Yakubu was seen saying in the clip that the INEC was ready to partner with the computer professionals in the deployment of Information Technology Communication (ICT) for the 2019 general election as might be allowed “within the law.”
Another witness of the PDP, a retired career diplomat, Ambassador Mabien Zamaki, told the tribunal that Atiku was a bonafide Nigerian by birth and nationality and was, therefore, legally qualified for the presidential poll.
The ambassador, in his evidence, said that he was aware with detailed record that Atiku was born on November 25, 1946, at Jada in the northern part of Nigeria.
Led in evidence by Atiku’s lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), the retired diplomat informed the tribunal that Atiku’s record in his former secondary school was not confidential and can be accessed by any body doubting the nationality of the PDP presidential candidate.
The witness, who claimed to have retired from active service in 2006, admitted that he saw the record from the custodian of the record in their secondary school and that the record are still there for anybody to cross check.
Zamaki further told the tribunal that he has fair knowledge of history of Nigeria as it relates to Jada in Adamawa and insisted that in 1946, when Atiku was born, Jada was part and parcel of Northern Nigeria, not part of Cameroon as suggested by the APC’s counsel.
He vehemently denied that any part of Northern Nigeria, including Jada was ever ceded to Cameroon.
Under cross examination by INEC lawyer, the witness confessed that he was not at the point where Atiku was born but admitted that Major General Muhammadu Buhari was head of state between 1983 and 1985.
Another witness, Mohammed Kabir Hayatu, a retired customs officer, corroborated the Nigerian nationality of the former vice president.
Hayatu, who was also led in his evidence in chief by Atiku’s lawyer told the tribunal that he came in contact with Atiku’s record in the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) where Atiku retired as a senior officer.
He told the tribunal that the part of Adamawa province where Atiku was born had never been part of Cameroon.
Hayatu, the 42nd witness, said this while was responding to questions posed to him by respondents’ lawyers under cross-examination.
Answering questions from counsel for the respondents, Hayatu confirmed that Atiku was born in 1946 in Jadda, in the Adamawa province. He confirmed that he was “told of the 1961 plebiscite” through which British Cameroon became part of Nigeria.
Asked if he was aware that the Adamawa Province was part of British Cameroon ceded to Nigeria in the aftermath of the 1961 plebiscite, he said: “There was a part of Adamawa Province that was in Northern Cameroon.
Adamawa Province had a Nigeria part and a Cameroon part. Jadda does not fall under Northern Cameroon.”
Asked if he had “any map to show the demarcation of the Adamawa Province”, the witness said: “I’m not a geographer.”
While being cross-examined by Usman, Hayatu said he was born on February 1, 1966, which was 20 years after Atiku was born. He confirmed that the head of Atiku family was in a better position than him to talk about the birth of the former vice-president.
Asked if the Atiku family had a head that was still alive, the witness said: “They have a head of family.” Asked who the head of the family was, he said: “Atiku is the head of the family.”
Also testifying, Sunday John said armed men later identified as APC agents struck at a polling unit in Karu local government and scattered the election materials and damaged the smart card reader deployed for the election.
He said as a result of the violent attack, the election could not hold at the polling unit.
Another witness, Harry Gunde, also in Karu local government of Nasarawa State, alleged falsification and alteration of election results at the council, which according to him, was carried out at the collation center and that it was reported to security personnel but no action was taken. Others, who also testified for the two petitioners are, Mohammed Opaluwa and Jonathan Nasara, who alleged massive thumb printing of ballot papers for APC and allocation of election figures by APC agents and security personnel to parties in the election.
At the end of cross examination of the 49th petitioners witness, the tribunal adjourned till tomorrow for continuation of hearing.