Two ad hoc officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday told the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja that they were instructed not to give election results sheets to political party agents who refused to sign the documents.
The subpoenaed witnesses – Abedemi Joseph and Grace Ajagbonna – appeared before the five-member panel of the court chaired by Haruna Tsammani to testify in the petition filed by Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging President Bola Tinubu’s victory.
Mr Tinubu won the 25 February presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after defeating Atiku and Peter Obi of the Labour Party in the contest.
But Atiku and Mr Obi are urging the court to overturn Mr Tinubu’s victory. They are alleging electoral malpractices against INEC and the president.
At the resumed hearing of Atiku’s suit Friday, the two subpoenaed witnesses informed the court that they were directed by INEC management not to hand copies of the election results sheets to any party agent who declined to append their signature on the documents.
Ms Abidemi and Ms Ajagbonna were members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and served as presiding officers for the February presidential and National Assembly elections.
They recalled that during their training as ad hoc staff for the polls, top officials of the electoral umpire gave instructions regarding the signing of results sheets.
Earlier on Thursday, two ad hoc officers of INEC testified that they could not upload the presidential election results on the electoral commission’s IReV portal.
At Friday’s proceedings, Ms Ajagbonna, who was led in her evidence by Chris Uche, Atiku’s lawyer, told the court that she served as a presiding officer in Kogi State during the polls.
She was Atiku’s 14th witness to testify at the court.
Mounting the witness box, Ms Ajogbenna expressed her disappointment in not being able to use the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) device to transmit the results sheet to INEC’s portal.
On her part, Ms Joseph, Atiku’s 15th witness who presented her appointment letter from INEC in evidence, said she served as a presiding officer in Niger state.
She informed the court that the election was hitch-free at her polling unit.
She recalled that all the party agents appended their signatures on the election results sheet.
“I was trained by INEC. It was part of our training that unless party agents signed, we should not give them duplicate copies of the result,” Ms Joseph said, affirming what PDP agents at the polls earlier told the court.
But while being cross-examined by Mr Tinubu’s counsel, Yusuf Alli, a Senior Advocate of (SAN), Ms Joseph said she did not compel any party agent to sign the results sheet.
While being cross-examined by APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, a SAN, the witness said INEC appointed her as a presiding officer two days before the 25 February election.
Another witness, Obosa Edosa, from Ovia South-West of Edo State, recounted her experience as a presiding officer at the polls.
“I tried to upload the result using the BVAS machine, but it failed. At the end, I took the result to the collation centre.
“Everything went well, apart from the transmission of the results with the BVAS.
“As a Presiding Officer during the election, I performed my duties very well,” Ms Edosa, the 16th witness, narrated.
The witness said she received a phone call to appear as a witness before the court.
In her evidence, Ms Edosa said, “I did the accreditation of voters using the BVAS and the voters’ register. The process went well, and actual voting started afterwards.”
“Afterwards, we sorted and counted the votes and recorded the results in Form EC8A. We entered the figures manually, and after that, I signed, and the party agents signed.”
Lawyers to the respondents – Mr Tinubu, INEC and APC – objected to the admissibility of the witnesses’ statements on oath.
They promised to articulate their opposition to the admissibility of the statements at the close of arguments in the case.
But Atiku’s lawyer, Mr Uche, a SAN, prayed the court to dismiss the objections.
Subsequently, the court said it would rule on the objections at the end of the case. It adjourned further hearing in the petition until Saturday.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.Donate
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999