Thursday, 28th September 2023

Tribunal: Three presiding officers testify against INEC, Tinubu in Atiku’s case

By Oluyemi Ogunseyin
09 June 2023   |   2:06 pm
Three ad-hoc presiding officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have testified against the electoral umpire and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) in Atiku Abubakar's case.

Gavel PHOTO: Shutterstock

Three ad-hoc presiding officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have testified against the electoral umpire and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) in Atiku Abubakar’s case.

This happened on Friday at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

The three INEC officials said despite being trained before the 2023 general polls, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine failed to transmit the scanned result sheet of the presidential election.

The trio of election officials were presented by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku who has filed a suit against INEC for declaring Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election.

At the resumed sitting on Friday, PDP counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) told the court that he would continue his case by calling his next subpoenaed witness (PW14) to give evidence.

Grace Ajagbonna, a resident of Egbe, Yagba West LGA, Kogi State and an ex-National Youth Service Corps member, appeared as the subpoenaed witness.

Tinubu’s lawyer, Akin Olujimi (SAN), however, rose up to restate his objection with regards to the subpoenaed witnesses being presented by the PDP.

APC counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) as well as INEC lawyer, A.B Mahmoud (SAN) equally raised objections, asking the court not to take the witnesses’ testimonies.

Uche, however, urged the court to dismiss the objections in its entirety. “Ruling on the objection will be delivered along with the judgment,” the chairman of the five-man panel of the PEPC, Justice Haruna Tsammani said.

After that, Ajagbonna adopted her witness statement on oath, saying she was engaged by INEC to work as an ad-hoc presiding officer during the 2023 election.

She also presented the letter of acknowledgement from INEC wherein she was deployed to serve as an ad-hoc staff.

Justice Mahmoud thereafter asked her if she played her role well and if the electoral process was successful.

She answered in the affirmative but said when she tried sending the scanned results of the National Assembly (NASS) and Presidential elections, the latter failed to transmit.

“I tried it Continuously. I was repeating it one after the other and it was not going,” the witness said. She was then asked if she was trained on the offline operations of the BVAS.

Ajagbonna said she does not remember but was only taught by INEC to use the BVAS to scan results, transmit and then proceed to the collation centre.

She also proceeded to tell the court that she was not happy when the BVAS machine could not send the results sheets of the presidential election at the polling unit.

“My lord to be sincere, I am not happy that I was unable to transmit the (presidential) election results,” she told Justice Mahmoud.

A second INEC ad-hoc presiding officer, Abidemi Joseph, announced her appearance saying she served in Niger State.

The same questions the first witness was asked were repeated and Joseph insisted that the election results could not be transmitted by the BVAS.

The third person who is a former ex-NYSC corps member and presiding officer in Edo State, Edosa Obosa, was also asked the same questions.

Obosa in her response said that she tried to upload the scanned result using a BVAS machine but it failed.

Meanwhile, the three witnesses all disclosed that they submitted the original result sheet signed by party agents to the Ward collation centre.

The witness was subsequently discharged from the testimony dock and the PDP petition was adjourned to Saturday, June 10.

Since Tuesday, May 30, the PEPT has been hearing petitions challenging the victory of President Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 25 presidential election.

The PDP and its flagbearer, Atiku, the Labour Party and its candidate, Peter Obi and the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM) are the petitioners against Tinubu’s declaration.

On the other hand, the respondents include INEC, Tinubu, Vice-President Kashim Shettima and the APC.

According to results declared by INEC, Tinubu got 8,794,726 votes, Atiku polled 6,984,520 votes and Obi finished the race in the third position with a total number of 6,101,533 votes.