By Martins Odeh
Abuja – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that inviting witnesses to defend its conduct of the Feb.23 general election would amount to becoming a partial umpire.
Mr Yunus Usman, SAN, said this in his oral application urging the five-man panel headed by Justice Mohammed Garba to close commission’s defence.
“My Lords, will not be calling any witnesses to defend the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against conduct of Feb. 23 election that re-elected Muhammadu Buhari as President.
“Our client will instead rely on the evidence it obtained from the petitioners’ witnesses under cross examination.
“There is no need calling witnesses to help the petitioners’ case as doing so would have negated INEC’s stance as impartial umpire,’’ Usman said.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the electoral body was given six days to produce defence for the allegations made by the petitioners on the conduct of the presidential election.
Following this development, the tribunal adjourned until July 30 for the second respondent (Buhari) to open his defence.
NAN reports that INEC, Buhari and the All Progressive Congress had early tried to deflate all the issues canvassed by the petitioners at separate cross examinations of the 65 witnesses that testified on their behalf.
Specifically, the respondents on July 15 described the 48 Compact Discs evidence tendered by the petitioners as lacking in probative value and therefore challenged their admissibility.
NAN also recalls that four of the video clips played in the court hall included “Count down of Osun Decides’’, a production of Channels Television with Seun Akinboloye as host.
In the above production dated Feb.8, Mr Mike Igini, Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom had talked about the readiness of the electoral body to transmit the Feb.23 general election electronically.
The second video was a clip of the postponement of the general election by INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmud.
NAN further reports that the third video was a clip of AFEX Nigeria training of INEC Ad-hoc staff on electronic result transmission.
Similarly, the briefing by the Nigerian Army authority on the status of Buhari’s alleged certificate saga completed the four materials shown in court.
INEC’ counsel had said that all the video clips tendered by the petitioners related to the commission’s activity before the election.
Usman had alleged such videos had no nexus with the activities that happened during the conduct of the election.
He also made the witnesses at various points to confirm that the chairman of the electoral body only expressed the hope of the commission to transmit results of the general election electronically, but that it was not actually done.
He also said that no officials of the commission except the chairman’s express permission had the statutory right to speak on behalf of the body.
On his part, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel for the president at various times of his cross examination of the petitioners’ witnesses clearly established from them that Buhari had his WAEC result.
The respondents had on July 16 further attempted to dislocate the petitioner’s video clip evidence on the allegation that INEC had concluded decision to transmit the election’s result electronically.
To this end, Dr Alex Izinyon, SAN, Counsel for the president, tendered a Channels Television video of INEC’s chairman where he specifically said that the result from the Feb.23 general election would not be transmitted to the commission’s central server.
Chief Chris Uche, SAN, Counsel for the petitioners had on July 15 led a star witness, Mr Segun Showunmi to tender the 48 Compact Discs evidence to substantial their claims.
Counsel for the respondents had also claimed that the petitioners’ 33, 234 documentary evidence placed before the tribunal were “mere papers’’ bearing no convincing contents.