Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday lined up another set of witnesses who told the tribunal that the presidential election result should be dismissed because the exercise was marred by irregularities.
A witness, who acted as agent of the two petitioners informed the tribunal that those who carried out the alleged electoral malpractices were not put on trial by police because they acted as agents of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
In all, the petitioners called a total of 13 witnesses yesterday to substantiate their allegations against the February 23 election.
Meanwhile the tribunal has adjourned sitting till tomorrow.
In fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s kinsman and chairman of PDP in Katsina State, Salisu Maijigiri, told the tribunal that he (Atiku) defeated the president in his home state.
Atiku, who continued his challenge of Buhari’s victory at the polls, called nine additional witnesses, who testified in his petition praying to void the election of February 23 on grounds of non-compliance with electoral laws, violence, thuggery, non accreditation of voters and non qualification of Buhari to contest the election.
The witnesses, who were led in their evidence in chief by Atiku’s counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), were Tanko Birchi from Niger State, Salisu Yusuf Maijigiri, PDP state chairman, Katsina State, Salisu Garba Funtua, Abdusalam Idris, Aliu Umar Ustas, Ibrahim Musa, Audu Sanni, Balarabe Usman, Umar Alhaji and Uchena Umeh.
They all maintained in the three states of Katsina, Kebbi and Niger where they voted and monitored the election that the presidential poll was characterized by rigging, allocation of votes to parties, use of thuggery to cause mayhem, non accreditation of voters, over voting, cancellation and alteration of election results as well as the use of police to intimidate, harass and forced to do their biddings on the election day.
However, another witness, Audu Sani, told the tribunal that he could not remember the date of the last presidential election.
Sani, who was the PDP collation agent in Lapai Local Government Area of Niger State for the presidential election, adopted his deposition wherein he alleged that there were incessant incidents of thuggery and sporadic shootings in many parts of the area, preventing and disrupting voting.
When cross-examined by counsel to INEC, Buhari and APC, Yunus Usman (SAN), Wole Olanipkekun (SAN), and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Sani said he submitted the results he collated in his local government to the state collation agent of his party.
Asked by Fagbemi when he submitted the results, he said he did on “the 26th.”
Asked which month, he said, “April 26.”
Asked when the election held, he said “23rd.”
When pressed further to mention the month, he said, “I cannot remember.”
In his evidence, Maijigiri told the tribunal that the 1, 555, 633 votes credited to president Buhari was not the true reflection of what transpired on the election day, maintaining that the figure was just allocated to him.
He alleged that agents of PDP in the 34 local government areas of the state were chased away while INEC adhoc staff were substituted with untrained ones used to produce fake results in the state.
Maijigiri insisted that PDP won in Katsina State with 905,000 votes while APC came second with 872,000 votes from the result collated by his party.
Under cross-examination by counsel to the respondents, Maijigiri said contrary to the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the results collated by his party in the state showed that APC polled 872,000 while PDP scored 905,000.
The results INEC declared for the state, however, showed that PDP polled 160,203 votes while the APC polled 1,505,633.
Contradicting INEC’s results, Maijigiri said: “We (PDP) are the one who won the election, not APC.
“APC scored 872,000 and PDP scored 905,000. These are our own results, we collated in our state not the ones from the server.”
An Assistant Presiding Officer 1 (APO) during the election, Mr Ogunsanya Abiola, testified that the INEC did not disclose the name of the server into which the results of the poll were said to have been electronically transmitted.
Abiola said INEC only gave them a confidential code with which to access the server, adding that the code was issued early morning on the day of the election.
Cross-examining the witness, another counsel in INEC’s legal team, Fabian Ajogu (SAN), asked the witness to give the name and the number of the server into which he claimed to have transmitted the results of the election in his polling unit.
Abiola said: “I personally transmitted the election information to INEC server. There is no name or number.
“We were only given a code with which to transmit the election information to the server.”
Another witness, Salisu Garba Funtua, a Local government collation agent, alleged over voting on the election day because card readers were abandoned.
He further claimed that election was cancelled in several places due to the failure of the card reader.
Under cross examination by Olanipekun, the witness maintained that the election was not free or fair because of over voting and other malpractices.
Another witness, Abdulsalam Idris, told the tribunal that Atiku and PDP never conceded defeat to Buhari and APC because the February 23 election cannot be called election in the full meaning of democracy.
Another witness, Aliu Umar Ustas, who was a local government collation officer for Atiku alleged that police connived with APC members to cheat the PDP. Under cross examination by counsel to APC, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, the witness emphasized that his party collated detail result and that the result are been kept with the party.
In his own evidence, Tanko Birchi, a lawyer and businessman, admitted that he was not physically present in all polling units but received complains in writing and verbal on the irregularities that characterized the election and that the complains has been delivered to the party national secretariat.
Responding to a question from the APC lawyer, the witness said that he heard that President Buhari was a General in the Nigerian Army and that he was in primary school between 1983 and 1985 when Buhari was a military president.
Uchena Umeh, who was the 17th witness, confirmed that as an APO 1 in Gwarinpa, Abuja, he transmitted the results of the poll to the server of the INEC.
He said: “In the course of the training, they told us there was an INEC server.
“A code was given to us and they told us that only APO I should know the code.”
“It will be wrong to state that election would not be held in a polling unit if the card reader failed to authenticate a permanent voter card.”