Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will tomorrow open its defence in the petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against the conduct of the February 23, 2019, presidential election which produced President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner.
The commission will have only six days to defend the allegations contained in the said petition where 62 witnesses gave evidence against the credibility of the polls.
This is after Atiku and PDP closed their case at the Justice Mohammed Garba led five-man Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja.
The petitioners who were dissatisfied with the results of February 23, 2019, presidential election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, had on March 18, 2019, filed their petition before the tribunal to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the poll.
They had proposed to call 400 witnesses to prove their case, but were only able to call 62 as at Friday, which marked the last of the 10 days allotted to them to prove their case.
Their last ‘star witness’, was Osita Chidoka, a former Minister of Aviation and the PDP’s collation agent at the National Collation Centre for the last presidential election.
Chidoka was discharged from the witness box after being cross-examined by the lawyers representing the respondents, comprising Yunus Usman (SAN) for INEC, Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN) for Buhari, and Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) for the All Progressives Congress.
Expressing gratitude to the five-man tribunal for the opportunity to present the petitioners’ case, their petitioners’ lawyer, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), announced the end of their case.
“Having called witnesses and tendered documents, and by virtue of the 46(5) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, we most humbly apply to close the case of the petitioners,” he said.
The tribunal subsequently adjourned till July 29 for the first respondent, INEC, to open its defence.
One of the major issue that will dominate the tribunal session is the controversy generated by the existence and usage of a server by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC in the last general elections.
While Atiku and PDP are contending that the result of the election was downloaded into INEC server, both the commission, Buhari and APC vehemently denied the claim.
The petitioners had, in their petition, stated that by figures obtained from the INEC’s server, they and not Buhari and the third respondent, the APC, won the presidential election held on February 23 this year.
According to the figures allegedly obtained from the server, Atiku said he scored 18, 356,732 votes as against Buhari’s 16, 741,430 votes.
“The servers from which the figures were derived belong to the first respondent, INEC. The figures and votes were transmitted to the first respondent’s presidential result’s Server 1, and thereafter, aggregated in INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019, whose physical address or unique Mac address is 94-57-A5-DC-64-B9 with Microsoft Product ID 00252-7000000000-AA535. The above descriptions are unique to the 15th respondent’s server,” Atiku and his party said.
The spokesperson for the second respondent’s campaign organisation openly admitted that the data in question was in the first respondent’s server when he wrote and submitted a petition to the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), asking the security agencies to investigate the second petitioner herein for allegedly hacking into the server of the first respondent and obtaining the data in question.
“Specifically, Festus Keyamo (SAN), the spokesperson of the second respondent claimed in the said petition that it was the first petitioner who smuggled the data into the server.”
Atiku and the PDP also alleged that the INEC chairman “committed grave errors in the final collation exercise” for the election by “falsely crediting” some persons with political parties, including “Okotie Christopher, Reverend Dr. Onwubuya and Ojinika Jeff Chinze.”