The Presidential Election Petition Court, Abuja, on Friday, admitted two video clips as exhibits in Peter Obi’s suit challenging President Bola Tinubu’s victory.
The video clips are believed to be press interviews granted by INEC chair, Mahmood Yakubu and another top official, Festus Oloye, where they promised to transmit the results of the general elections in real-time electronically.
Mr Obi, who was the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, at the February election, accused Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, of manipulating the polls in favour of Mr Tinubu.
Mr Tinubu vied for the Nigerian presidency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He defeated Mr Obi, who came third in the race.
Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, who came second at the polls, is equally seeking to upturn Mr Tinubu’s victory.
When the suit came up on Friday, Mr Obi’s lawyer, Jibril Okutepa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), presented the video clips contained in two flash drives before the five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani.
Mr Okutepa earlier informed the court that he subpoenaed Channels Television to produce the two videos.
He further told the court that two subpoenas dated 30 May and 6 June were issued on Channels Television – a broadcast station headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria.
In compliance with the subpoenas, the broadcasting house sent one of its editors, Lucky Obewo-Isawode, to appear before the court.
After the court admitted the subpoenas as exhibits, Mr Obewo-Isawode, mounted the witness to testify.
But Mr Tinubu’s lawyer, Akin Olujinmi, and other respondents lawyers objected to the admissibility of the videos as well as Mr Obewo-Isawode testifying before the court.
Mr Olujinmi, a SAN, contended that the petitioner’s lawyer should have frontloaded Mr Obewo-Isawode’s witness statement on oath before the court.
President Tinubu, through his lawyer, maintained that the witness was not competent to testify in the matter since his written statement was not front-loaded at the time the petition was filed.
Mr Olujinmi referencing Paragraph 4 (5) and (6) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022, contended the witness statement should have been filed alongside the substantive petition 21 days after Mr Tinubu was declared president-elect.
Mr Tinubu was declared president-elect on 1 March 2023, while Mr Obi filed his suit at the registry of the Presidential Election Petition Court on 20 March.
But he did not file the witness statements of subpoenaed witnesses alongside the main suit.
At Thursday’s proceedings, one of Atiku’s lawyers, Chris Uche, a SAN, had argued that the petitioner need not frontload subpoenaed witnesses’ statements before the court.
Mr Tinubu’s lawyer and other respondents in the sister case challenging the outcome of the polls had urged the court not to allow subpoenaed witnesses to testify before it.
But, the court allowed the subpoenaed witnesses to testify, while it reserved its ruling on the contention until a later date.
“A petition which fails to comply shall not be accepted, that is what the law says. My lords, it was after the proceeding started today that the statement of this witness was served on us,” Mr Olujinmi told the court.
“This is over three months after the declaration of the result of the election was made.
“This witness was not listed by the petitioners and his statement was not attached to the petition. To that extent, he is not a competent witness who can testify before this court,” he added.
Similarly, INEC’s lawyer, Kemi Pinhero, a SAN, agreed with Mr Olujinmi’s submissions on the issue.
Reacting to the objections, Mr Okutepa said a petitioner had no control over a subpoenaed witness, saying a subpoena is an order of court which must be complied with.
“My lords, my submission is that a subpoenaed witness is competent to testify in this matter,” Mr Okutekpa insisted.
Subsequently, the court admitted the video as evidence, marking them as Exhibits PBH-3 and PBH-4.
However, the videos could not be played in the open court on Friday evening for want of time.
However, the respondents lawyers opposed the playing of the videos. They argued that they had not been served copies of the videos as contained in two flash drives.
Responding, the chair of the panel, Mr Tsammani assuaged the respondents’ lawyers’ concerns.
He said the respondents would not be prejudiced if the videos are played in court.
Thereafter, the court adjourned the case until Saturday for further hearing.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the flash drives contained videos of press interviews granted by INEC’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu and the commission’s National Commissioner on voter education, Festus Okoye.
According to lawyers in the suit, the videos contained assurances by Messrs Yakubu and Okoye that results of the 2023 general elections was going to be transmitted in real-time from polling units across Nigeria to INEC’s IReV portal.
But during the conduct of the presidential election on 25 February, the electoral umpire reneged on its promise to electronically transmit the results in real-time.
Mr Yakubu would later blame the development on “glitches” during the polls.
The inability of the commission to abide by its pledge forms one of the grounds of Atiku and Mr Obi’s suits challenging the credibility of the election.
The petitioners, in their separate petitions, are praying the court to nullify the election and order a fresh poll.
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