The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) yesterday heard that Labour Party (LP) candidate in the February 25 poll Peter Obi was not a member when he was nominated.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu told the tribunal that Obi’s name is not on the party’s membership register submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Senate Majority Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, testified as the sole witness of President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettma in their defence of the petition by Obi and LP.
Counsel for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), drew Bamidele’s attention to the LP’s membership register for Anambra State, which was already in evidence, and asked him to confirm whether Obi’s name was on it.
Bamidele looked at the document and told the court that Obi’s name was not on the register, which the LP submitted to INEC with an April 25, 2022 cover letter.
Tinubu and Shettma had argued that not being a member of the party, Obi was not qualified to contest on the LP platform.
‘Tinubu is not involved in criminal forfeiture’
Bamidele said the petitioners wrongly stated the law under which the civil forfeiture proceedings in the United States District Court involving President Tinubu were conducted.
He said they created the wrong impression that it was a criminal forfeiture.
Bamidele said as a lawyer licensed to practice in the U.S. and a member of the American Bar Association (ABA), he knew that for there to be a conviction, there must be a charge, an arraignment and a defence.
He said the February 3, 2003 letter from the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tafa Balogun requesting criminal records of Tinubu in the U.S., and the February 4 response by the US Embassy in Nigeria, signed by the Legal Attache, Michael Bonner, effectively cleared Tinubu of any criminal records in the U.S.
The U.S. Embassy’s response, which was admitted in evidence, states that all record searches did not reveal that Tinubu was ever involved in any criminal case or was ever convicted.
Part of the letter reads: “In relation to your letter, dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000/IGPSEC/ABJ/VOL.24/287, regarding Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a records check of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) was conducted.
“The results of the checks were negative for any criminal arrest records, wants, or warrants for Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“For information of your department, NCIC is a centralised information centre that maintains the records of every criminal arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories.”
Bamidele, who tendered his ABA membership card, said no evidence of sentence was contained in a copy of the U.S. court’s judgment which the petitioners had tendered in support of their claim that Tinubu was convicted in the U.S.
The witness said as a longtime associate of Tinubu, he was aware the President is a Nigerian citizen by birth.
Under cross-examination by the petitioners’ counsel Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), Bamidele insisted that the proceedings in the U.S. were not criminal.
He faulted Uzoukwu’s claim that the case was conducted under the money laundering offences law.
The witness stressed that it was conducted under Section 981 of the U.S. law relating to civil proceedings and not Section 982 which the petitioners wrongly stated in their petition to give the case a criminal colouration.
In response to another question from Uzoukwu, the witness said the proceedings in the U.S. court were not related to money laundering.
Olanipekun tenders 18 documents
Earlier, Olanipekun tendered 18 different sets of documents from the Bar.
They included a certified true copy (CTC) of Vice President Shettma ‘s voluntary July 6, 2022 resignation letter as the candidate of the APC for Borno Central Senatorial District before his selection as the APC vice presidential candidate.
The petitioners are challenging the competence of the joint ticket, claiming that Shettima had double nominations.
Bamidele, who also testified as Tinubu’s sole witness in the petition by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said he was aware of the case filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja by the LP, in which the court held that it was only INEC that could determine the mode of collation and transmission of results.
The judgment was admitted in evidence.
He repeated his evidence that the case in the U.S. was civil and that there was no conviction of Tinubu as erroneously claimed by Atiku and the PDP.
‘25 per cent in FCT not needed’
While being cross-examined by a lawyer to Atiku and the PDP, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), Bamidele said Tinubu did not need to score 25 per cent in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to be declared the winner.
He faulted Jegede’s claim that the FCT was the nation’s centre of unity and has a special status.
Bamidele said there was nothing special about the status of the FCT, except that it is just the nation’s capital city, as is the case with the 36 states, with each having a capital city.
He agreed that Tinubu is the only one among the four major candidates in the last presidential election who did not win in his home state.
The witness said he was not aware that the APC was opposed to the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Results Viewing (IREV) during the last general elections.
Bamidele also told the court that Tinubu’s scores in the presidential election in Kano State were reduced by 10,929 votes while being transferred from Form EC8D to Form EC8D (A).
Certified true copies of both documents were admitted.
Tinubu, APC end defence
After Bamidele’s testimonies in both cases, Olanipekun announced the closure of his clients’ defence in the two cases.
Fagbemi said that based on the evidence his client had led both through the documents tendered and the cross-examination of other parties’ witnesses, APC was satisfied that it effectively made its case.
He said it was of no use flogging a dead horse because the cases had been effectively countered.
Ruling, the court allotted 10 days each for the respondents in both petitions to file their final written addresses.
It ordered the petitioners to each file their written addresses within seven days and gave the respondents additional five days each to file their reply, if any.
The court said each written address should not exceed 40 pages, while parties are at liberty to file a separate address, not exceeding 10 pages each.
They are to reflect the reasons for their objections to the admissibility of some of the documents tendered.
Parties are to be notified of the date for the adoption of final addresses.