Counsel of the Independent National Electoral Commission, on Thursday at the Presidential Election Petitions in Abuja, denied Forms EC8A, EC8B and EC8C – the polling units, wards, and local government result sheets for Niger and Yobe states.
The Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, opened the trial by tendering the results of the polls in Niger and Yobe states.
Atiku and his party had petitioned the tribunal challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Party at the February 23, 2019 election.
A renowned constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN), made what turned out to be a solidarity appearance at the tribunal on Thursday. Nwabueze arrived the courtroom in a wheelchair, and was wheeled out shortly thereafter.
In his remarks before taking his leave, the 87-year-old noted that the generality of Nigerians believed that the presidential election was rigged but yet to find who perpetrated the rigging.
He urged the tribunal “to rise above the self-imposed shackles” in order to “find out the truth about what happened during that election”.
The trial commenced, shortly after Nwabueze left with Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), resuming as the lead counsel for the petitioners.
Uzoukwu tendered Forms EC8A, EC8B and EC8C – the polling units, wards, and local government result sheets for Niger and Yobe states.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, along with the two other respondents, Buhari and the APC, objected to the tendering of the result sheets which were all certified by the electoral body.
The respondents, through their respective lawyers, also objected to the tendering of the receipt of certification issued on June 7, 2019 by INEC in respect of the Niger State result sheets.
While opposing the admissibility of the receipt, Buhari’s lead counsel, Mike Igbokwe (SAN), said, “If INEC objected to the admissibility, who am I not to object? It’s their document but they are objecting to it.”
In response to the comment which ignited laughter in the courtroom, INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), who being the counsel for the 1st respondent, was the first to object to the document. He quickly rose to say “it’s not our document.”
The courtroom further burst into laughter.
The APC’s lawyer, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), also objected to the tendering of the receipt.
But the respondents’ lawyers did not object to the tendering of the certification receipt issued by INEC on May 9, 2019 in respect of the result sheets of Yobe State.
In line with the agreement reached among the parties at the pre-hearing session which ended on Wednesday, the respondents all indicated their objection to the documents tendered by the petitioners but would only give their reasons at the final address stage.
Also, as part of the agreement, the tribunal admitted all the documents as exhibits, but subject to the consideration of the reasons for the objection to be given by the respondents at the end of trial.
A total of 3,464 result sheets from the 25 local government areas of Niger State and one receipt of certification of the result sheets were admitted as exhibits.
The documents, including the receipts were admitted as P1 to P3465.
As for Yobe State, a total of 1,731 result sheets from 17 local governments, and one receipt of certification were admitted as exhibits.
The exhibits were admitted as Exhibits PY1 to PY1732.
Two result sheets for a Yobe LG
In the course of tendering the result sheets for Nangere Local Government Area of Yobe State, Justice Garba observed that Form EC8C, the local government result sheet, which ought to be one turned to be two.
He asked the petitioners’ lawyer which one should be recorded as the tendered exhibit.
Responding, Uzoukwu said, “We got the two documents from INEC. So we are tendering the two.”
The tribunal went on to admit one of the Forms EC8C as Exhibit PYB 1101 and the other as Exhibit PYB 1101A.