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Yakubu shuns tribunal as INEC tenders documents

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[FILE PHOTO] INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday tendered the documents required by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.

The tribunal had on Wednesday subpoenaed the INEC boss, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Zamfara State to appear with the documents relating to the February 23, 2019 poll. But Yakubu did not appear before the tribunal yesterday.

The order followed an allegation by Chief Chris Uche (SAN), the counsel to the petitioners, the PDP and Atiku, that the respondents were frustrating the matter.

Consequently, the petitioners filed two applications on July 9, seeking an order of the court to compel the INEC chairman to physically appear before the tribunal and present certain documents listed by them, and the Zamfara REC to produce the presidential election results for the state.

While the appearance order was served on Yakubu on July 15, that of the Zamfara REC was served on him on July 12. Uche specifically told the tribunal that the petitioners had written to both the INEC boss and the Zamfara REC to appear with the required documents but to no avail.

In its ruling, the tribunal ordered Yakubu and Zamfara REC to appear before it unfailingly on Thursday, July 18 (yesterday).

At the resumed hearing yesterday, expectations were high as many people waited to hear the INEC boss give testimony in court.

Since the appearance was scheduled for 12 noon, the tribunal began with the hearing of the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). And when the court stood down the matter for ruling on a motion at about 11:45 a.m. many still anticipated that the tribunal was preparing the ground to receive the INEC boss, but surprisingly, it embarked on a break to reconvene by 1:00 p.m.

But before members of the panel took their bows, Uche drew the court’s attention to the directive made on Wednesday regarding the subpoena order on INEC boss.

“Is the chairman here now?” the chairman of the panel, Justice Mohammed Garba asked counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), in response to Uche’s reminder.

Responding, Usman assured the tribunal that efforts were being made to comply with the order on appearance before the 12 noon. With the assurance, the panel members departed for a break. Shortly after, some documents were brought to the courtroom, raising the hope that the subpoenaed would indeed be called in when the court reconvened.

At exactly 1:00 p.m., the panel resumed but first gave a ruling in a motion filed by the PDM. After the ruling, Uche again reminded the tribunal that the INEC boss was yet to appear in court.

In his response, Usman told the tribunal that the order of the court was “to the effect that documents should be produced, and not that any person should appear before the tribunal.”

He maintained that the order of the tribunal had been fully complied with by the tendering of the said subpoenaed documents.

All eyes were on the panel as gradually the documents were tendered, accompanied by a letter signed by the secretary of the commission to that effect.

Uche, while commending Usman for the efforts made within the shortest period, however, requested a copy of the letter to enable him to ascertain if the documents were complete and the same as the ones requested.

With that settled, the tribunal’s chairman, Justice Garba, adjourned hearing on the petition till today. Atiku and PDP are expected to close their case today, to allow the respondents in the matter to call their witnesses in the next six days.

Atiku and PDP had filed the petitions challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the February 23 presidential poll.


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