Candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, on Saturday, said he has lined up 50 witnesses that would testify and tender evidence to establish that the 2023 presidential election was rigged against him.
Obi, who made the disclosure at the resumed proceedings on the petition he filed to challenge the return of the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said he would require seven weeks to present his case before the court.
Addressing the court through his team of lawyers led by Prof. Awa Kalu, SAN, said he was constrained to demand for the seven weeks, owing the “a few hiccups” he encountered at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
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“My lords, we still have a few hiccups at INEC because of the order that was made by this court on March 8, directing them to allow us to carry out a forensic examination of the BVAS. They have not allowed us.
“We are also waiting for some documents we requested from them,” Prof. Kalu added.
He told the court that the parties agreed to give 30 minutes for star witnesses in the matter to present their evidence-in-chief, excluding the time for possible demonstration of any electronic evidence.
Whereas Obi’s lawyer disclosed that parties agreed to use 20 minutes each to cross-examine the witnesses, another five minutes would be used for their re-examination.
On its part, INEC, through its lawyer, Mr Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, said it had no agreement with either Obi or the LP on time to be allocated to the witnesses.
The electoral body equally denied being aware of any hiccups being faced by the petitioners.
“I have no knowledge of such hiccups. I had earlier assured the lead counsel for the petitioners, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, that I would be available to assist him in any way that I can, should he encounter any difficulty.
“So far, I have not received such a complaint from him”.
INEC, which is the 1st respondent in the matter, said it would need three days to present its two witnesses.
The President-elect, Tinubu, through his lawyer, Mr Roland Otaru, SAN, said he would require nine days to call a total of 21 witnesses, excluding expert witnesses, to defend his election victory.
Likewise, counsel for the APC, Mr Niyi Akintola, SAN, said the party would call only seven witnesses, excluding those to be subpoenaed, to testify in the matter.
The APC said it would require only nine days to defend Tinubu’s election, adding that Obi and the LP only frontloaded statements of only three witnesses.
Meanwhile, all the respondents said they must be given 48 hours’ notice before any expert witness would be brought to testify in the matter.
Obi and LP had in their petition marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023, argued that as at the time Tinubu’s running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, became the Vice Presidential candidate, he was still the nominated candidate of the APC for the Borno Central Senatorial election.
They equally challenged Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the presidential election, alleging that he was previously indicted and fined the sum of $460,000.00 by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483, for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.
On the ground that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, 2022, the petitioners argued that INEC acted in breach of its own Regulations and Guidelines.
The Petitioners contended that the electoral body was in the course of the conduct of the presidential poll, mandatorily required to prescribe and deploy technological devices for the accreditation, verification, continuation and authentication of voters and their particulars as contained in its Regulations.
They are praying for the court to not only hold that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election, but also to declare that all the votes recorded for him were wasted votes owing to his non-qualification/disqualification.
“That it be determined that on the basis of the remaining votes (after discountenancing the votes credited to the 2nd Respondent) the 1st Petitioner (Obi) scored a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and had not less than 25% of the votes cast in at least 2/3 of the States of the Federation, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the 25th February 2023 presidential election.
“That it be determined that the 2nd Respondent having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the presidential election in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on 25th February 2023.
In the alternative, the petitioners want an order cancelling the election and compelling INEC to conduct a fresh election at which Tinubu, Shettima and the APC, listed as 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents, respectively, shall not participate.
They urged the court to declare that since Tinubu was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast in the election, therefore, his return as the winner of the presidential election, was unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.
In a further alternative prayer, the petitioners want the court to hold that the presidential election was void on the ground that it was not conducted substantially in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, and the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
As well as, an order, “cancelling the presidential election conducted on 25th February 2023 and mandating the 1st Respondent to conduct a fresh election for the President, the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.