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INEC Officials Testifying as Witnesses Before the Presidential Tribunal is Prohibited by the APC & Tinubu in Nigeria

Nigeria Presidential Electoral Tribunal

The application made by the electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to bring some of its ad-hoc staff during the 2023 general elections to testify before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal has been vehemently opposed by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.

President Tinubu claimed that he had no knowledge of the details of the statements made by witnesses under oath before the court. President Tinubu is the second respondent in a petition filed by former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar seeking to annul his election victory.

Through his legal team, lead by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Tinubu contended that the law needed such crucial comments to be made beforehand to give other parties time to fully prepare.

The president asserted that it was unacceptable for Atiku and the PDP, the joint petitioners, to spring a surprise by presenting statements of subpoenaed witnesses in the middle of the hearing of their case, basing on a number of established case laws.

As a result, he asked the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja to disregard the testimony of the five witnesses who had been subpoenaed and not give it any probative value.

President Tinubu’s position enjoys the support of the All Progressives Congress, APC, the third respondent in the lawsuit.

When the lawsuit was filed, Atiku was supposed to have provided the written statements of the witnesses, according to the APC, which was led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.

The head of INEC’s legal team, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, stated that he was also opposed to the court allowing the five subpoenaed witnesses to appear in the matter because their statements were not included in the petitioners’ initial adduced proof of evidence.

Atiku’s attorney, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, asked the court to overrule all objections and let the witnesses to finish their evidence.

It would not have been possible to front-load the written testimonies of the summoned witnesses because they had not yet been summoned at the time the petition was submitted, he continued, pointing out that the grounds emphasized in the Respondents’ objections were misconceived.

According to Tinubu and the APC, witnesses should be treated differently because they were required to attend in the case by a court summons.

The five-member panel chaired by Justice Haruna Tsammani momentarily adjourned the case in order to render a decision on the disputed issue, but the court then reconvened and authorized the petitioners to call witnesses.

The judgment will be held and issued at a later time, according to the court.

Despite being called to testify before the court, only two of the five INEC ad hoc staff members who took part in the contested presidential election were able to do so on Thursday. The other three were slated to testify on Friday.

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