Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Members of the five-man Presidential Election Petition Tribunal yesterday watched the three video clips presented by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to support the allegations contained in their petition challenging the outcome of the February 23, presidential election.
The video clips were played at the tribunal yesterday against stiff opposition from President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The respondents had, through their respective counsel, objected to the admissibility of the electronic generated evidence.
However, the Justice Mohammed Garba- led tribunal overruled their objections and ordered that the 48 video Compact Discs (CDs) should be played.
The tribunal held that the objection by the respondents was baseless as the 48 video compact discs sought to be tendered by the petitioners were covered by the agreement reached at the pre-hearing session in respect of the case.
The tribunal unanimously held that as it had been done in respect of other exhibits tendered by the petitioners in line with the pre-hearing agreement, the respondents could only raise their objection to the admissibility of video exhibits and give reasons for it at the final address stage.
The tribunal went on to admit the CDs as Exhibits P36 to P83.
The certificate of compliance with the provision of the Evidence Act accompanying the exhibits was admitted as Exhibit 84.
Following the ruling, the petitioners, through their lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), played the video clips which were produced by their 40th petitioners’ witnesses, Segun Showunmi, who is the media adviser and spokesperson for Atiku.
Three of the video clips played included an interview a Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mike Iginni, granted on Sunday Politics programme of Channels Television when he said the results of the election would be transmitted to INEC’s server.
In the interview, Igini was showed giving details of how results would be collated from units to wards to local government and then the state. Thereafter, the results so collated would be transmitted to the INEC central server through the use of the smart card reader. However, under cross-examination by INEC lead counsel, Yunus Usman (SAN), Atiku’s Witness admitted that Igini was not the official spokesman for INEC.
In another video recording, played in the courtroom, INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, expressed optimism before the election that the Commission would use the electronic system during the conduct of the 2019 general election.
In another video played and admitted by the tribunal, the Nigerian Army, through its spokesman, said at a media briefing that the attention of the Army had been drawn to a claim by Major General Muhammadu Buhari that he obtained the West African School Certificate (WAEC) in 1961.
The Army spokesman clarified in the video that the Army authorities have searched through the personal file of General Muhammadu Buhari and did not find the certificate in the file. Meanwhile, Buhari through his counsel, Alex Izinyon, had sought to play counter- video recording tomorrow.
Another witness to the petitioners, Suleiman Bulama, told the tribunal how he and the PDP paid N10,000 to some soldiers during the last general election.
The testimony of Bulama, who was the PDP ward collation agent in Jika Local Government Area, was contained in his written statement, which he admitted before the tribunal.
He insisted under cross-examination by counsel for Buhari, Izinyon, that they (himself and his party) paid the N10,000 to soldiers during the last presidential election.
Asked by Izinyon whether his action and that of his party does not amount to bribing security officials, the witness said, “no, we did not pay bribe.”
Another witness, Mr. Abana Poku, told the tribunal that voters were not accredited before they were allowed to vote at Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State during the February 23, poll.
Poku, who is the 38th witness called by the petitioners, was the collation agent for the PDP and Atiku, in Chibok LGA during the election.
While in the witness box, he alleged widespread incidents of over-voting, lack of accreditation of voters with smart card reader machines, inaccurate ballot paper accounting, and unlawful cancellation of votes in PDP’s strongholds.
Poku told the tribunal under cross-examination from counsel for the respondents that voters during the election were not accredited.
Asked if he was identified through any means before he was allowed to vote, Koku said: “Nobody identified anybody, people were just handed ballot papers and allowed to vote.”
He said the 95 polling units in the 11 wards in Chibok LGA were located in the Chibok Central Primary School because of the security situation in the area.
Poku further said he saw 80 percent of the polling unit result sheets before coming to the conclusion that there were widespread instances of over-voting in the area.
But when asked, he said he could not recall the total number of registered voters in the LGA.
He also said he could not remember the exact number of accredited voters and the total number of votes cast.
He also said he did not sign the Form EC8C, the result sheet for the local government.
Also, Babagana Kukawa testified that voters were harassed, intimidated and threatened to either vote for APC or risk being ejected from their farmlands.
Meanwhile, INEC yesterday described the 48 CDs evidence tendered by the PDP and Atitku as lacking in probative value.
Garba adjourned the proceedings until today for continuation.