By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
Watchers of the legal drama going on at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) are waiting with bated breath to see the counter-tape President Muhammadu Buhari’s legal counsel, Alex Iziyon SAN, plans to play on Tuesday to erase any damage caused by those played and tendered as exhibits by the Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s legal team.
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, Monday played a video recording at the election petition tribunal where the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, said that the electoral body would transmit election results with the use of Smart Card Reader to the INEC central server.
Igini in the video played before the tribunal, spoke with Channels Television shortly before the election was conducted, assuring Nigerians that everything has been perfected to make the election transparent.
In the interview Igini, was showed giving details of how results would be collated from polling units to ward, to local government and state collation centres, and then be transmitted to the INEC central server through the use of the smart card readers.
Atiku’s counsel, Chris Uche SAN, had tendered 48 CDs and admitted by the tribunal as part of efforts to substantiate alleged rigging against the re-election of Muhammadu Buhari.
Uche, who led the Atiku and PDP legal team at the proceedings at the Court of Appeal, tendered the 48 video recordings through Mr. Segun Showumi, one of the media aides to the PDP presidential candidate.
During the play of one of the recordings, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State was emphatic when he told the Channels TV crew that the electoral body would surely use smart card readers to transmit election results to the INEC server.
In another video recording, played in the courtroom, INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, expressed optimism before the election that the Commission would use the electronic system during the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
In yet another video played and admitted by the Tribunal, the Nigerian Army through its spokesman, said at a media briefing that the attention of the Army had been drawn to a claim by Major General Muhammadu Buhari that he obtained the West African School Certificate (WAEC) in 1961.
The Army spokesman clarified in the video that the Army authorities have searched through the personal file of General Muhammadu Buhari and did not find the certificate in the file.
The objection of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari to the tendering of video clips by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had been overruled by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT).
PDP and Atiku, challenging the election of Buhari in last February’s Presidential election, had sought to play some video clips at the Monday’s hearing, but were vehemently opposed by the trio. However, the five-man panel led by Justice Mohammed Garba held that the objection by the respondents was baseless as the 48 video compact discs (VCDs), which PDP and Atiku said were to show state by state how the February 23, 2019 presidential election was allegedly rigged against Atiku, were covered by the agreement reached at the pre-hearing session in respect of the case.
The VCDs were subsequently admitted as exhibits.
Atiku and PDP also applied to the presidential election petition tribunal to play the video recording in the courtroom as part of efforts to substantiate their allegations of massive rigging against the election of President Buhari.
Earlier in the day, Atiku’s counsel, Chris Uche SAN, announced his plan to tender the discs and play some of them through one of its witnesses Segun Showunmi, but counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman SAN, vehemently objected to the request.
Usman said that INEC is not in support and will not support any bid by Atiku and PDP to play the video recording for the tribunal to see and to admit same.
He insisted that the video CDs were not front loaded by the petitioners and that INEC which conducted the election has been ambushed, adding that only documents front loaded will be allowed to be admitted.
Buhari and APC through their lawyers sided with INEC that the video recording must not be played or admitted so as not to allow the petitioners to amend their petition.
Atiku’s lawyer drew the attention of the tribunal to the pre-hearing report where they all consented that objections to documents admission can only be made at the final address stage.
Uche cited Supreme Court decisions for consideration of the tribunal to the effect that both front loaded and listed documents including video CDs can be admitted and played in the courtroom.
Atiku’s lawyer specifically drew the attention of the tribunal to page 143 of the petition where several items including video and audio recording relating to the February 23 poll were pleaded by the two petitioners to establish their allegations against Buhari’s election.
Although the Tribunal chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba drew the attention of INEC, Buhari and APC to their joint agreement with the petitioners to oppose admission of documents at the final address stage, the three respondents however stood their grounds in their vehement objection to the video show.
Earlier, three witnesses, Babagana Kukawa, Hon. Abana Pogu and Suleiman Mohammed Bulama from Borno and Yobe states had testified that Buhari and APC on the election day used soldiers to attack and injure PDP agents.
The witnesses also alleged that Village and District Heads were also used to intimidate and threaten eligible voters to vote for Buhari or risk being ejected from their farmlands.