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Obi and Atiku’s Petitions: Tinubu Wraps Up Defence in Presidential Poll Case

President Bola Tinubu yesterday closed his defence on the two petitions seeking to nullify his election victory.

The petitions, which are seeking to invalidate the outcome of the presidential election that held on February 25, were filed before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, and that of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi.

Atiku who came second in the presidential contest and Obi who came third, are in their separate cases, claiming they won the election.

They are praying the court to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to President Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

While Obi closed his case after he called 13 witnesses that testified and tendered several documentary exhibits, Atiku produced 27 witnesses and equally tendered exhibits before the court.

Meanwhile, President Tinubu kick-started the defence of his election victory on Tuesday as he tendered 17 sets of Exhibits, including his educational and travel records.

At the resumed proceedings yesterday, Tinubu wrapped up his defence in both Obi and Atiku’s case, with the testimony of only one witness.

The witness, Senator Micheal Okpeyemi Bamidele, in his evidence, maintained that votes President Tinubu got in Kano state at the end of the presidential election, was not properly recorded, insisting that there was a shortfall of about 10, 929 votes.

Senator Bamidele told the court that many international bodies that sent observers to the country, including the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, filed a report after the election.

He told the court that the ECOWAS report on the presidential election dated February 27, was signed by a former President of Republic of Sierra Leone, Mr. Ernest Koroma.

Despite objection by Obi’s lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel admitted the ECOWAS report in evidence and marked it as Exhibit RA-27.

Obi’s lawyer said his team would adduce reasons why they opposed the admissibility of the report, in their final written address.

Continuing his testimony, the witness, confirmed a letter the LP wrote to INEC on April 25, 2022, wherein it forwarded its membership Register as well as its list of members in Anambra State, to the commission.
Both documents from the LP to INEC, were admitted in evidence by the panel and marked as Exhibits RA-17 and RA-18.

While being cross-examined by counsel to the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the witness, who said he was the former Chairman of Senate Committee on Judiciary and currently the Majority Leader of the Senate, told the court that the list of membership the LP forwarded to INEC prior to the presidential election, did not contain Obi’s name.

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He equally told the court that as an Attorney that practiced in USA since 1999, there could not be a criminal conviction against Tinubu, when no charge was filed against him.

The witness further tendered original documents containing evidence of his membership of the New York Bar in the USA.

“As a long standing associate of President Tinubu for over 25 years now, I know that he is a Nigerian citizen by birth,” the witness added.

In a counter move, counsel to the Petitioners, Dr. Uzoukwu, SAN, through the witness, tendered the final report of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, which impugned the conduct and outcome of the 2023 general elections.

Notwithstanding objections from all the Respondents, the court admitted a certified copy of the EU report and marked it as Exhibit S-2.

The witness was asked to read a portion of the ECOWAS report which he tendered in evidence, where it stated that there was wanton destruction of properties and killings in the build up to the elections, including the murder of LP’s Senatorial candidate in Enugu state.

After he read the portion, the witness, said: “My lords, I do not agree with this aspect. I only accept the conclusion. The killings that were experienced in the South East was due to the IPOB situation and not because of the election.”

On Tinubu’s alleged involvement in drug related crime, the witness, maintained that contrary to the position of the Petitioners, he told the court that what was decided by the US Court was a civil proceeding and not a criminal forfeiture.

Also testifying in Atiku’s case, Senator Bamidele, told the court that Tinubu was given a clean bill of health by the United States Embassy in Nigeria.

While being cross-examined by Atiku’s lawyer, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, the witness, admitted that he was neither at the result collation center in Kano nor at the national collation center in Abuja on the day of the presidential election.

He further confirmed that the final result of the presidential election was not signed by any agent of the PDP.

The witness admitted that though Tinubu forfeited the sum of $460, 000 in the US, it was however not in a criminal proceeding.

He also identified the report of the Committee on the location of the Federal Capital Territory which he said recommended that Abuja should be specially provided for as the symbol of unity, insisting however that it did not make the FCT a state.

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The witness equally admitted that President Tinubu only got 19.7 per cent votes in the FCT.

Asked if he was aware that Tinubu would be the first person to be declared a President without scoring 25 per cent votes in the FCT, the witness, told the court that it was not a statutory requirement.

“The requirement is for him to score 25 per cent of total votes cast in the election, not only in the FCT,” he added.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that of all the four major candidates that contested the presidential candidates, only Tinubu did not win his home state.

“My lords, it is however not important because he secured the required amount of votes to be declared the winner,” Senator Bamidele told the court.

Meantime, counsel to the Petitioners, through the witness, tendered a copy of November 24, 2022, edition of Vanguard Newspaper, which had a story on APC’s objection to the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

Shortly after the witness was discharged from the box, President Tinubu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, announced the decision of his client to close his defence at that juncture.

On its part, the APC, through its lawyer, Prince Fagbemi, SAN, told the court that it had no witness to present.
“My lords, with the evidence of this star witness, we believe that there would be no need to flog an already dead horse,” Fagbemi, SAN, added.

Consequently, the court, relying on Paragraph 46 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, directed the Respondents to within 10 days, file their final written address.

It held that the Respondents should upon receipt of the Petitioners’ address, file their own final brief of argument within seven days, while the Respondents would file a reply within five days, if they wish to.

The court warned that whereas all the written addresses should not exceed 40 pages, parties would be at liberty to file separate written addresses not exceeding 10 pages, for all the objections they raised in the course of the hearing.

The court said the date for adoption of all the processes, preparatory to its final judgement on the case, would be communicated to all the parties.

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