In the next few weeks the firepower at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) will ebb as the five-member panel of the court, headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, has sent lawyers and petitioners back to their chambers to produce their final written addresses.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a final written address is a legal argument in writing filed by parties at the close of hearing….Continue Reading>>>
It articulates the point of the parties and why judgement should be in their favour.
After weeks of hearing the case of the petitioners; Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi and the Labour Party, it was the turn of the respondents to open their defence.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), the first respondent in the petition, opened and closed its case with a sole witness.
The witness, Mr Lawrence Bayode, an Assistant Director in the commission’s Information Technology Department, insisted that the presidential election was free, fair and in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022.
Bayode also told the court that whether or not photographic copies of polling unit results captured by Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) were transmitted manually or electronically, the integrity of the election was not compromised.
According to him, the glitch on the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) on election day did not affect the actual scores of the candidates as the results of each of them remained the same.
Asked if INEC filed any formal complaint to Amazon Web Services, (AWS), over glitches experienced during the presidential election, the witness, said: “We did not need to file a report to Amazon over the technical glitch and we did not do so.”
Following a request by counsel to the petitioners, the witness read in the court, portions of the European Union Election Observer Mission report that was earlier admitted in evidence.
He specifically read the portion where the EU stated that the 2023 election was not a transparent and inclusive election as promised by INEC.
He also read a portion in the report which said only 31 per cent of results uploaded in IREV were mathematically correct.
The witness maintained that the technological innovations which INEC introduced into the electoral process were to guarantee transparency and integrity of the election.
For President Bola Tinubu, Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele was the only nail he needed in the coffin of the petitioners.
With Bamidele as his star and only witness, Tinubu closed his defence against Obi and Atiku petitions.
Tinubu opened and closed his defence after the testimony of Bamidele, who was elected as the Senate Majority Leader only a day before he appeared in court to give evidence.
Through Bamidele the president tendered 17 sets of exhibits, including his educational and travel records.
Bamidele, in his testimony, insisted that the votes President Tinubu got in Kano state were not properly recorded, saying that there was a shortfall of about 10, 929 votes.
He also told the court that many international bodies that observed the election, including the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, filed a report after the election.
He said that the ECOWAS report on the presidential election dated Feb. 27 was signed by a former President of Republic of Sierra Leone, Mr Ernest Koroma.
In spite of objections from the petitioners, the ECOWAS report was admitted in evidence and marked appropriately.
Bamidele further confirmed a letter the LP wrote to INEC on April 25, 2022, where it forwarded its membership register as well as a list of members in Anambra to the commission.
He told the court that the list of membership the LP forwarded to INEC did not contain Obi’s name and as such Obi was not a member of the party when he contested the election.
The witness tendered original documents containing evidence of his membership of the New York Bar in the United States.
He told the court that as an attorney that practiced in the United States since 1999, there could not be a criminal conviction against Tinubu when no charge was filed against him.
The witness insisted that what the U. S. Court decided was a civil proceedings and not a criminal forfeiture.
He urged the court to take a judicial notice of the fact the petitioners anchored their petition on criminal forfeiture whereas the judgment of the court explicitly stated that the case was a civil matter.
Bamidele told PEPC that Tinubu was given a clean bill of health by the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria.
He also told the court that as a long standing associate of the president for over 35 years, he knew him as a bona fide Nigerian citizen by birth.
When asked if he was aware that Tinubu would be the first person to be declared president without scoring 25 per cent votes in the FCT, Bamidele answered that it was not a statutory requirement.
He said: “the requirement is for him to score 25 per cent of total votes cast in the election, not only in the FCT.”
The Senate Leader also acknowledged that of all the four major candidates that contested the presidential candidates, only Tinubu did not win his home state.
He however said: “My lord, it is not important because he secured the required amount of votes to be declared the winner.”
In what many political enthusiasts who are closely following the proceedings of the PEPC, termed an anti-climax twist, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) closed its defense without calling any witnesses.
For the APC, as captured by its lead counsel, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, there is no need whipping a dead horse.
Fagbemi told the court: “My lords, with the evidence of this star witness, we believe that there would be no need to flog an already dead horse.’’
The five-member panel consequently directed the respondents to within 10 days, file their final written address.
It further directed petitioners to upon receipt of the respondents’ address, file their own final brief of argument within seven days.
The respondents were subsequently given five days to reply on points of law, if they wished to.
The court warned that all the written addresses should not exceed 40 pages, but that parties were at liberty to file separate written addresses not exceeding 10 pages, for all the objections they raised in the course of the hearing.
The court said the date for adoption of all the addresses, preparatory to its final judgment in the petitions, would be communicated to all the parties.
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) recalls that Atiku came second in the presidential contest while Obi and came third.
While Atiku along with his party closed their case after calling 27, out of 100 witnesses they said they had lined up, Obi and LP closed their case after calling 13 out of 50 witnesses.
The petitioners are among other things, praying the court to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Tinubu by INEC.
They are contending that Tinubu was inconsistent as to his actual date of birth, secondary schools he attended; his state of origin, gender, actual name and certificates and universities he attended.
The petitioners also contend that the president did not disclose to INEC, his voluntary acquisition of the citizenship of Republic of Guinea in addition to his Nigerian citizenship….Continue Reading>>>
But the respondents had in their replies, urged the court to dismiss the petitions which they maintained were grossly incompetent and lacking in merit. (NANFeatures)