From Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday vehemently kicked against the bid by former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, to engage ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to give evidence in his petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the 2023 presidential election.
But the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) reserved ruling on the objections, allowed the evidence of the staff to be taken while those opposed to their appearance were free to cross-examine them.
Atiku in his bid to establish alleged irregularities against the election had subpoenaed three ad-hoc workers of INEC to give first hand account of their experiences as they related to the presidential election of February 25.
He had specifically requested them to offer explanations on how the results of the presidential election results were transmitted and carried out.
However, Tinubu represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN objected to the use of statements made on oath by the witnesses to be tendered at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in aid of Atiku’s petition.
The grouse of the President and the APC was that the statements of the ad-hoc workers were not front loaded at the time of filing the petition.
Olanipekun SAN, who cited several provisions of the law against the use of the witnesses’ statements, argued that since they were subpoenaed by Atiku as the petitioner, he ought to have front loaded their statements on oath along with the petition.
He asked the court to reject the witnesses and discontenance their statements on grounds of violating the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
Tinubu’s arguments against the subpoenaed witnesses were adopted by Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN who stood for the APC; and Abubakar Mahmoud SAN who appeared for INEC.
However, Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche SAN, asked the court to dismiss the objections on the grounds that they were utterly misplaced and misconceived.
Uche argued that the objections by Tinubu, APC and INEC were a deliberate ploy designed to delay proceedings.
The senior lawyer insisted that the statements of the subpoenaed witnesses could not have been front loaded along with the petition because they had not been summoned at the time of filing the petition.
He asked the court to discontenance the objections of the three respondents and hold that they are not regular additional witnesses envisaged in the law cited by Olanipekun.
Although the court stood down for ruling, the Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani on resumption, announced that ruling in the objections had been reserved.
However, he ordered that the evidence of the three subpoenaed witnesses be taken and the respondents cross examine them.