Unexpectedly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) it has no plans to defend itself against allegations of impropriety and irregularities in the February 23 presidential poll.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election.
Not minding PDP and Atiku’s exhibits and 62 witnesses who testified for the petitioners, the electoral body indicated that it would use the tribunal’s proceedings for its defence.
INEC lead lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN) said that part of the evidence adduced by Atiku and PDP as the two leading petitioners will be used to make its case.
According to Usman, the electoral body is satisfied with the testimony of the petitioners’ witnesses under cross-examination, to the extent that the election was validly held.
Yunus said calling on witnesses would amount to helping the petitioners do their case.
“We cannot help them to do their case. All their witnesses confirmed our position about the conduct of the election,” Usman said.
Counsel to the petitioners, Mr Levi Uzoukwu, thanked the INEC lawyer for deciding not to call any witness and in view of the development, they as petitioners have gained six days.
However, the chairman of the Tribunal asked him to wait until Tuesday to hear the ruling of the court in view of the position of INEC.
Meanwhile, the tribunal had adjourned to Tuesday July 30 for President Buhari to open his defence.
Following INEC’s decision not to call witnesses, Buhari’s lead lawyer, Wole Olaipekun (SAN) informed the tribunal that they are preparing to go on with their own case if given the go-ahead.
In another development, PEPT has altered the scheduled of proceedings in the hearing of the petition, reducing from six to three, the days within which parties are to file their final written addresses.
Presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Garba said, in view of time constraint, the court has decided to alter its earlier announced schedule.
By the new amendment, the respondents are now allocated three days each to file their final written addresses at the close of evidence,while the petitioners will have three days from the day of service.
The respondents are to have two days to file reply on point of law if necessary.