The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday resisted the attempt by the PDP to call persons said to be adhoc election staff that took part in the last presidential poll, to testify in the ongoing trial of the case challenging the return of APC’s Bola Tinubu
The witnesses were specially subpoenaed to appear before the court and their testimonies are considered crucial both to the case of the petitioner and the defence of the respondents
The case of the petitioners is that the conduct of the February 25, 2023 presidential election was riddled with corrupt practices and non-compliance with the rules sent out by the electoral body, which informed their decision to subpoena some INEC adhoc electoral staff.
But INEC is not leaving anything to chance. Its lead counsel Abubakar Mahmoud objects vehemently to the petitioners move to call the subpoenaed witnesses.
He argued that he has just been served the depositions of the subpoenaed witnesses and that he will need to study their witness statements to prepare adequately for their cross examination. Mahmoud also submits that he will need to do due diligence and background checks to confirm that the witnesses planned to be called were actually INEC adhoc staff in the presidential election
The other respondents, Bola Tinubu and the APC through their lawyers adopt similar arguments, saying the petitioner’s decision to bring those witnesses without prior notification is tantamount to an ambush.
Despite the attempts of the petitioners lead counsel Chris Uche to convince the court to take just one of the witnesses in order not to waste the day’s proceedings, the court is only persuaded by the rules which require that witness statements should be filed ahead of the appearance of the witnesses.
Earlier, the petitioner had presented its 11th witness, who identified himself as Ndubuisi Nwobu, a PDP chairman in Anambra state who also served as the party’s state collation agent
Under cross examination, Nwobu said he monitored the election in 30 polling units out of 4,720 in Anambra state and from his observations and reports received, there was no upload of results to the I-Rev portal using the BVAS device as promised by INEC.
Lawyer for Tinubu, Akin Olujinmi questioned the witness’ knowledge of mobile technology and whether it is sometimes susceptible to network failures, to which the witness answered in the affirmative.
The justices however intervened when Olujimi attempted to question the witness on whether the BVAS can also experience similar failure. The court noted that it is not the job of the witness to speak on the BVAS since he has never used it before
The trial continues on Thursday, 8th of June
(Editor: Paul Akhagbemhe)