Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Proceedings at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja came to an abrupt end on Friday following allegations by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate in the February 23, 2019 poll, Atiku Abubakar, that some of their other witnesses scheduled to testify had been attacked by gunmen.
The petitioners are challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress at the February 23 poll.
The accusations came from their lawyers who informed the Justice Mohammed Garba- led five member tribunal that the witnesses were waylaid by “gunmen” on their way to Abuja from Zamfara State.
Meanwhile, before the information, the petitioners had called eight witnesses on Friday, to bring to a total of 36 witnesses who have already testified.
The information came from one of the senior lawyer in the petitioners’ legal team, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), just before the tribunal was to go on its routine one-hour break at about 1pm.
Uche said the witnesses said to have been attacked were those they prepared for the second half of Friday’s proceedings.
He said, “I am not sure if the next set of witnesses would be available.
“We got information that they were waylaid by armed men while on their way from Zamfara State to Abuja.”
The information was corroborated by the lead counsel for the petitioners, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), who walked into the courtroom while Uche was addressing the panel.
He said, “I was the one that was called on the phone. I kept having the repeated calls and had to go out to answer.
“I was told that while the witnesses were on their way from Zamfara State, they were attacked by armed men.
“Some of them jumped into the bush and some of them were gravely injured.
“Up till now, they are still looking for some of them in the bush.”
He, therefore, noted that there would be no need for the sitting to resume at the end of the one-hour break.
Uzuokwu did not however give the number of persons involved in the incident and the exact location of the attack.
He requested that the matter be adjourned till Monday.
Counsel for the respondents— the Independent National Electoral Commission, with its legal team led by Yunus Usman (SAN); President Muhammadu Buhari, whose legal team was led by Yusuf Ali (SAN); and the APC, whose team was led by Latef Fagbemi (SAN), did not oppose the request for adjournment.
Buhari’s lawyer, Ali, specifically expressed sympathy with the petitioners’ side.
Zamfara is one of the 11 states where the petitioners are challenging the outcome of the February 23 poll.