By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) on Monday admitted as exhibit the final report of the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU-EOM), which faulted the conduct and outcome of the 2023 presidential election that produced President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and others.
The Presidency, on Saturday, vehemently rejected the EU-EU-EOM final report which said the presidential election was flawed. The PDP applauded the report, advising the presidency to remain quiet, while the Labour Party (LP) described the presidency’s reaction as shameless.
The report tendered by the former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, was admitted as exhibit inspite of vehement objections by President Bola Tinubu, All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The European Union election observer mission had, in the report claimed that the presidential election did not show credibility, fairness and transparency in the ways and manners it was conducted by INEC.
Thr report tendered through INEC’s sole witness and Director of Information Technology (IT), Dr. Lawrence Bayode said only 31 percent of the presidential election result was uploaded into INEC’s result viewing portal.
Before the admission of the report, Atiku through his lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche SAN had applied that cross examination of the INEC’S witness must be kick-started by Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress APC in view of their common interests against Atiku’s petition.
The application was however bluntly opposed by Tinubu and APC through their lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun SAN and Prince Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi SAN respectfully.
The logjam that followed the application forced the 5-man Tribunal members to rise into their Chambers to consult relevant laws on the mode of cross examination in such an instant case.
Upon resumption, the Court ruled in favour of Atiku and ordered Tinubu and APC to first cross exam the witness which they complied with.
Another application by Atiku that the INEC witness be made to read some critical portions of the European Union’s final report on the findings on the presidential election was also upheld in favour of the PDP presidential candidate inspite of opposition by Tinubu, APC and INEC.
Another objection by Tinubu and the APC against Atiku’s bid to cross examine the witness for 20 minutes was dismissed by the Court.
In his evidence in chief, Dr. Bayode had admitted that the electoral body has no electronic collation system for election results, hence, the presidential election result was not electronically collated.
Specifically, the INEC witness admitted that the collation of the Presidential election results was done manually by the presiding officers of the electoral body.
Under cross examination by Atiku Abubakar’s lead Counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), the witness admitted that not all the presidential election results were uploaded into the INEC’s results viewing center as at March 1, 2023 when Tinubu was declared and returned as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
While the witness told the court that there was a technical glitch that affected the uploading of the presidential election results, the witness, however, under cross examination admitted that such glitch was not reported to Amazon Web Services (AWS) by the INEC.
Under cross examination by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), lead Counsel to President Tinubu, the witness told the court that form EC8A formed the basis of the election results and that data and network service were required for the upload of the images of the results captured by the Biomodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine.
He further testified that images captured on BVAS, whether transmitted electronically or manually will not affect the integrity of the election, especially when results entered into form EC8As are announced to the hearing and knowledge of party agents.
The INEC Director, while answering another question from Olanipekun said, the February 25 presidential election results announced in favour of Tinubu was free, fair, transparent and in substantial compliance with the provisions of the law.
Also under cross examination by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), lead counsel to the APC, the witness admitted that glitches were experienced on the election day but however said, that the glitches did not affect the final results and scores of candidates at the election
With one witness and four documents tendered, INEC closed its defense in the petition filed by the former Vice President against the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential election.
Meanwhile, President Tinubu has been ordered to open the defense of his victory in the presidential election on Tuesday July 4, 2023 by the Presiding Justice of the Presidential Election Petition Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani.