INEC Chairman to Appear Before Election Tribunal

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Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, will appear before the Presidential Election Petition Court on Thursday, according to Chris Uche, lead counsel to Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in their ongoing petition.

The petitioners are challenging the outcome of the Feb. 25 presidential election which declared President Bola Tinubu as the winner. The respondents are INEC, President Bola Tinubu, and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

During his appearance on Thursday, the INEC chairman will testify on the conduct of the disputed presidential election. Uche told the court that he does not want the respondents, especially Tinubu and the APC, to be caught unawares. Earlier in the hearing, the petitioners called their 19th witness, Alex Ter, their first star witness to testify. Ter is a lawyer, politician, and National Coordinator of PDP’s National Situation Room.

Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN counsel for INEC, however, objected when the witness was about to adopt his statement which were more than one. Mahmoud stated that it was not pleaded in line with the provisions of the law, and therefore urged the court to dismiss it and uphold the objection. Uche for the petitioners told the court that the objections INEC raised have been argued, and the ruling reserved by the court, he urged the court to overrule the objection and allow the process to go on.

According to Uche, they are tendering the Manual for the Conduct of the 2023 Election. He said he will be tendering video clips of a broadcast by the chairman of INEC, and of Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC on the election. The team is also tendering European Union (EU) election observers’ mission broadcasts, alongside the transcripts and certificates of authenticity of the three videos, pursuant to Section 84 of the Evidence Act.

Uche also tendered INEC I-reV screenshots of the portal as of March 18 and March 19. Also tendered was I-reV results portal at the polling units of March 1 and the transcripts and certificates of authenticity. INEC did not object, but Tinubu and APC objected, and all the respondents reserved their responses until their final written addresses.

Under cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer, Mahmoud, the witness admitted that he was not at the National Collation Center but was at the PDP Situation Room in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He also admitted not being an ICT expert but that he based his report from information obtained from agents of the PDP at the collation centers. The witness faulted INEC for not electronically transmitting presidential election results, adding that calculation errors led the electoral body into grave errors.

Also cross-examined by Akin Olujimi SAN, counsel for Tinubu, the witness said that he came to the conclusion that the presidential election was invalid by reason of corrupt electoral practices as related to him by PDP agents. Testifying as the petitioners’ 20th witness (PW20) was Olutunji Shelle. He alleged during cross-examination by INEC counsel that there were some secret polling units set up by APC in Lagos, though he said he did not visit any.

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