By Uche Amunike
One week after the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, concluded calling his witnesses in defense of the victory of President Bola Tinubu at the last general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), could not open its defense at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal as scheduled, as a result of the absence of their witness.
Recall that INEC had declared Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the February 25th presidential election. On March 1st, Peter Obi of the Labour Party urged the court to nullify Tinubu’s victory on the grounds of alleged electoral fraud, perpetrated by INEC, among other issues.
Over a week ago, the Electoral Commission scheduled to kick off its defense of the conduct of the election after Peter Obi finalized calling his witnesses. However, at the resumed hearing on Monday, Lawyer to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, Informed the five member panel of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, chaired by Haruna Tsammani, that the case would not go on as scheduled, because his scheduled witness that was meant to testify, could not make it to court. He therefore requested that the case be adjourned.
In his reaction, lead counsel to Peter Obi, Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, stated that he was not satisfied with Mr. Mahmoud’s conduct for not letting him know about the absence of his witness, before the day’s proceedings. He however accepted Mahmood ‘s request for an adjournment.
Counsel to Bola Tinubu, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, as well as that of the APC, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, also did not refuse the request by INEC for the case to be adjourned. It was eventually adjourned to Tuesday for further hearing.
During the hearing of Peter Obi’s case, he submitted several electoral documents that comprised of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines reports, as well as the results of the presidential election, assembled nationwide to help his case.
One of Peter Obi’s issues with the election is that the Commission failed to upload polling units results of the presidential election in real-time, to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV). He also accused INEC of manipulating the election to favour Bola Tinubu, who scored majority votes at the poll. However, INEC blamed technical hitches for its inability to transmit the Polling unit results electronically to IReV Portal.
While testifying in court, though, Obi’s expert witness, Mpeh Ogar, revealed to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that every part of the health status of Amazon Web Services which hosts the INEC portal, showed that there were no technical glitches on the day of the election.
Ogar, who is a Cloud Engineer and Architect at Amazon Web Services Incorporated, made it clear that INEC’s IReV portal did not experience any glitches that will make them not upload real-time, the polling unit results. These and other issues were supposed to be brought up in INEC’s defense, but because of the absence of their witness, they could not.
The Commission would expectedly open its defense at 2pm on Monday, all things being equal.