Thursday, 28th September 2023

INEC ad hoc officers allege difficulty in uploading presidential election results

Two subpoenaed Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ad hoc officers said the election umpire had difficulty uploading presidential results during the Feb 25 election.

Staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) start confirming over again 7,000 portable permanent voter card (PVC) readers ahead of the postponed predidential and general election at the River State INEC office in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 18, 2019. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Two subpoenaed Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ad hoc officers said the election umpire had difficulty uploading presidential results during the Feb 25 election.

The officers, Friday Egwuma and Grace Timothy who testified as subpoenaed witnesses before the presidential election petition court (PEPC) made this known on Thursday.

In a petition marked CA/PEPC/05/2023, Abubakar Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are challenging the outcome of the Feb.25 presidential election which brought Tinubu as the winner.

The respondents in the petition are Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

At the resumed hearing, Chris Uche, SAN, counsel for the petitioners informed the court that they are calling their first subpoenaed witness.

The witness named Friday Egwuma, an INEC ad-hoc officer during the Feb 25 election was a corp member as of that date.

At the point of adopting his witness statement on oath, there was an objection from the respondents.

The respondents’ counsel all gave their submissions and the court reserved ruling on their objections until final judgement.

Testifying,  Egwuma and Timothy told the court that they worked as polling unit officers.

They admitted that they operated the Bimodal Voters’ accreditation system (BVAS).

They said they were able to upload results for the House of Representatives and Senate were sent successfully while the president refused to go.

Earlier, when Uche was leading Egwuma in evidence to adopt his witness statement on oath, President Bola Tinubu ‘s counsel, Wole Olanipakun, SAN objected.

Olanipakun submitted that the statement was not listed and front-loaded alongside other lists of witnesses as required by the provision of the Electoral Act

He said the provisions of the law do not make a distinction to whether a witness is subpoenaed or not, that his or her statement must be front-loaded.

He argued that in this case the subpoenaed witness‘s statement was not front-loaded alongside other lists of witnesses in the petition

Olanipakun however, submitted that he was not unaware that the court could summon witness by itself in the interest of justice.

He cited some authorities to drive his point home and we can not add, subtract from what is in the law.

He, therefore, urged the court to uphold the objection.

In his own submission, counsel for INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN said counsel has an overriding duty to help the court.

He said at the time of filing the petition, the petitioners ought to have filed the subpoenaed witnesses’ statement on oath and front load.

Lateef Fagbemi, SAN counsel for APC in his submission aligned with both the 1st and 2nd respondents ‘ counsel.

He added that the petitioners can come with an application for an extension of time in which they can file additional witnesses.

However, Atiku’s lead counsel Uche asked the Court to dismiss the objections on the grounds that they were utterly misplaced and misconceived.

He submitted that the objections by Tinubu, APC and INEC were deliberate ploys designed to delay proceedings.

Uche insisted that the statements of the subpoenaed witnesses could not have been front-loaded along with the petition because they have not been summoned at the time of filing the petition.

He asked the Court to discountenanced the objections of the three respondents and hold that they are not regular additional witnesses envisaged in the law cited by Olanipekun.