The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) yesterday suspended proceedings for President Muhammadu Buhari’s lawyer to provide equipment needed to play a digital video disc (DVD) clip where Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Mahmoud Yakubu ruled out the adoption of electronic transmission of results of the last general elections.
The five-member tribunal,led by Justice Mohammed Garba, adjourned till today, shortly after Buhari’s lawyer, Alex Izinyon (SAN), sought to be allowed to bring equipment to play the DVD after the lawyer to Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chris Uche (SAN) objected to the use of their television set and DVD player for the disc the second respondent’s lawyer sought to play.
It was the eighth of the 10 days allocated to Atiku and the PDP, who are, by their petition, challenging the outcome of the last presidential election won by President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Atiku and his party claimed, in their petition, to have won the last presidential election, going by results they got from a purported INEC server.
The petitioners, who proposed to call about 400 witnesses, have so far called 40, having called four yesterday.
After calling their third witness yesterday, Uche indicated the petitoners’ intention to tender video evidence contained in about 48 compact discs and to play some in open court.
The petitioners proceeded to call its fourth witness for the day, Segun Showunmi, through whom they tendered the CDs and a certificate of compliance. Showunmi introduced himself as the media Adviser to Atiku.
Although lawyers to the respondents – Yunus Usman (SAN) for INEC; Izinyon, and Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), for the APC objected to the admission of the CD in evidence, the tribunal, in a ruling, overruled the respondents’ objection.
Justice Garba said the CDs were part of exhibits covered by the pre-election agreement by parties, which the tribunal adopted.
Upon the ruling, Uche applied that some of the videos be played. Three of the CDs were played.
The first was a recording of a television programme – “Sunday Politics” – which featured an interview with an INEC official, Mike Igini.
In the video, Igini gave details of INEC’s preparation for the last general elections, stressing the planned use of card reader for accreditation and electronic transmission of election results through a central server.
The second video showed an official of the Army, who claimed not to have neither original, photocopy or statement of the West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC) in President Buhari’s personal file.
The third video INEC’s chairman at a meeting with some members of the Computer Registration Council of Nigeria (CRCN) during which he, among others, spoke about INEC’s plan to deploy technology, particularly a new platform for electronic collation and transmission of results.
Under cross-examination by Usman, Showunmi admitted being aware of other interviews granted by the INEC chairman, particularly those of February 6 and 8, where he spoke about the impossibility of transmitting results electronically.
When asked if he could produce his letter of appointment as Atiku’s media aide, the witness said he was not with the letter, but that it could be in his house in Lagos.
Showunmi said he knew Igini, and agreed with the INEC lawyer that, in the video marked Exhibit P74, Prof. Yakubu only hoped that “election results may be transmitted electronically ,not that it will be transmitted electronically.”
The witness also agreed with Usman that the interviews, contained in the videos showing Igini and Yakubu, were all done before the election.
Under-cross examination by Izinyon, Showunmi said he was aware of the INEC chairman’s interview of February 6, 2019 where he said electronic transmission would not be possible.
Izinyon brought out a CD, which he wanted to play for the witness to confirm if that was the interview he said he was aware of.
Uche promptly interjected and objected to playing of the video through his witness.
Upon the intervention of the tribunal Chairman, Uche said the respondent should bring their gadgets to play their video.
“My lord, these are our equipment,” said Uche, pointing to the flat screen television and CD player. “We brought them to play our CDs. They should bring their own.”
“In digital world, there is what they call virus that may affect our gadgets if the CD is played on it,”Uche said, following which Izinyon sought an adjournment till the next day to enable him fetch his own equipment.
The three witnesses were called by the petitioners, before Showunmi made sundry claims about malpractices allegedly perpetrated by APC’s agents during the election.
One of the witnesses, Suleiman Mohammed Bulama, admitted that he and PDP paid N10,000 to some soldiers during the last general election.
Bulama, who said he acted as the PDP’s ward collation agent in Jika Local Government, gave the information about the N10,000 payment in his written statement, which he admitted on Monday before the tribunal.
During cross-examination by Izinyon, Bulama, who was the petitioners’ witness, said he stood by his claim that they (he and his party) paid the N10,000 to soldiers during the last presidential election.
When confronted by Izinyon that by their action they were bribing security officials, the witness said “no, we did “not pay bribe”.