… As INEC, APC declines to call witness
The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party has filled their final written addresses in their petition challenging the return of President Muhammad Buhari as the winner of the February 23, 2019, Presidential election.
The petitioners, in their final written addresses, in response to Buhari’s (2nd respondent) final written address, filed on their behalf by their counsel, Dr. Livy Nzoukwu (SAN), insisted that Atiku Abubakar won the election and should be so declared, adding that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rigged the said election in favour of President Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Party (APC).
Recalled that President Buhari had, last month, shocked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), handling the petitions, that rise from the conduct of the election when he abruptly closed his defense after calling seven witnesses in the petition filed challenging his election.
The petitioners had told the Tribunal that they will call 400 witnesses to prove the allegations of violation of electoral laws by INEC in the conduct of the Presidential election but however, closed their case after calling 63 witnesses.
Although the tribunal headed by Justice Mohammed Garba allotted six days to the president to present his defense in the petition, challenging his academic qualification for the election and the general conduct of the poll by INEC, Buhari, however, chose to spend only two days after calling seven witnesses and tendered some documents.
Buhari’s legal team, headed by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), told the tribunal that they have opted to end their defence with the seven witnesses and documents tendered so far, adding that Buhari’s legal team had studied the hardware, software, server and evidence of Atiku and PDP decided that the defence must end there.
He said that the evidence adduced by Buhari and issues ventilated inside the court have made the legal team come to the conclusion that it was time to restrict the legal dual to the four corners of the court by those who are learned.
“We are satisfied with the evidence we have led. We are closing our defence for President Muhammadu Buhari as second respondents and we are ready to address the court on laws”, he said.
The APC, represented by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) in another dramatic turn also announced that the party will also close its defence.
Fagbemi told the tribunal that APC was satisfied with the cross-examination of witnesses and other documents and evidence put forward by President Muhammadu Buhari to defend himself in the Atiku’s petition, adding that the APC is satisfied and will not call any witness to open any defence.
Lead counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), did not object to the position canvassed by Buhari and APC.
However, Atiku and PDP’s counsel, Dr. Levy Uzoukwu (SAN), told the tribunal that the dramatic decision of Buhari and APC to cut short their defense was a face-saving grace in view of the revelations emanating from witnesses called by Buhari himself.
Tribunal Chairman, Justice Garba, while ruling on the request made by parties in the matter ordered the respondents to file their final address and the petitioners, upon receipt of the address shall have seven days to file their own to the three respondents.
Justice Garba also ordered that INEC, Buhari and APC shall thereafter have two days to respond on point of law to issues that may be raised by Atiku and PDP and that filing and exchange of processes must come to an end on August 16, 2019.
The tribunal chairman subsequently fixed August 21, 2019, for all parties in the petition to adopt their final addresses after which judgment date will be fixed.