The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on Friday, rested their case after calling their 62nd witness at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja.
Dissatisfied with the results of the February 23, 2019 presidential election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the petitioners had on March 18, 2019, filed their petition before the tribunal of five judges led by Justice Mohammed Garba to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the poll.
They had proposed to call 400 witnesses to prove their case, but were only able to call 62 as of Friday, which marked the last of the 10 days allotted to them to prove their case.
Neither Atiku nor his running mate, Peter Obi, who had always been present at the proceedings, testified at the tribunal.
Their ‘star witness’, Osita Chidoka, a former Minister of Aviation and the PDP’s collation agent at the National Collation Centre for the last presidential election, testified as the last petitioners’ witness on Friday.
He was one of four petitioners’ witnesses that testified on Friday. The other three being Petitioners’ Witness 59, David Njorga from Kenya, who was described by the petitioners as their expert witness; the PW 60, Joseph Gbenga, a data analyst; the PW61, Captain Joe Agada (retd.), who served as the collation agent for the PDP at the Kogi State collation centre during the last presidential election.
Chidoka was discharged from the witness box after he had been cross-examined by the lawyers representing the respondents, comprising Yunus Usman (SAN) for INEC, Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN) for Buhari, and Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) for the All Progressives Congress.
Expressing gratitude to the five-man tribunal for the opportunity to present the petitioners’ case, their petitioners’ lawyer, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), announced the end of their case.
“Having called witnesses and tendered documents, and by virtue of the 46(5) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, we most humbly apply to close the case of the petitioners,” he said.
The tribunal subsequently adjourned till July 29 for the first respondent, INEC, to open its defence.
By virtue of the pre-hearing report adopted by the parties to the case, INEC, like the two other respondents – Buhari and APC – will have six days to present its defence.
Uche, while speaking with journalists at the end of the proceedings, said, “I am satisfied with the case we have presented to the court. What is important is not the quantity of evidence, but the quality. Our approach in this case has been scientific and forensic.”
Petitioners’ Witness 59, Njoga, who said he was an expert in Information and Communication Technology, had earlier told the tribunal on Friday that the server results presented by the petitioners as the authentic results of the February 23 election were released by an anonymous official of the INEC.
He said he never knew the unknown INEC employee, whom he described as a whistle-blower.
Under cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman, he said he analysed the results of the election obtained from INEC’s server and published on a website, www.factsdontlie.com.
According to the witness, the website was created on March 12, 2019.
Fielding more questions, he said, “The site does not belong to INEC but the data it contains are from INEC server.”
He confirmed that he had “never worked with INEC before”.
Asked if he knew the whistle-blower, he said “No”.
Atiku’s data analyst tells tribunal he’s not yet certified
Petitioners’ Witness 60, Joseph Gbenga, a data analyst, admitted before the tribunal, on Friday, that he had not been certified.
Gbenga, an Industrial Chemistry graduate from the University of Ilorin, described himself as a database analyst and designer engaged by the petitioners to analyse the results of the presidential poll in 11 out of the 36 states of the federation.
Asked under cross-examination by the INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), if he had been certified to carry out the type of job he did for the petitioners, the witness said, “I have undergone training but I have not been certified.”
He, however, said he had previously been engaged by the World Health Organisation, among other organisations.
Fielding more cross-examination questions from the respondents’ lawyers, Gbenga said he had carried out his analysis through the inspection of result sheets from 11 states.
Buhari’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), also accused Gbenga of issuing a report which conflicted with the claim of the petitioners in their petition challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
Olanipekun said the witness in his report awarded a margin of victory which the petitioners never claimed in their petition.
Petitioners’ Witness 62, Chidoka, who served as both the PDP’s national collation agent and the party’s head of situation room in Abuja, said he had never seen the server into which INEC allegedly transmitted the results of the 2019 general elections.
But he said the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, consistently told stakeholders about the server and acknowledged its existence during the collation of the presidential election.
Fielding more questions, the witness said he never heard President Muhammadu Buhari speak in English throughout his period as the Head of State except his coup speech in 1983.
He was asked by Buhari’s lawyer, Alex Izinyon (SAN), if he was aware that Buhari addressed the nation in English between 1983 and 1985 while serving as Head of State.
In response, Chidoka said, “Are you talking of the coup speech which he made when he removed a democratically elected government?” – Punch.