The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained why it chose not to call any witness in defence of the petition by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last presidential election, Atiku Abubakar.
INEC’s lead lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN) told the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) on Monday that his client has elected not to call any witness in defence of the petition.
By the court’s schedule, the electoral body was expected to open its defence today, but when the case was called on Monday, Usman told the court that, having painstakingly reviewed the evidence and statement by the 62 witnesses called by the petitioners, INEC found to reason to call witnesses.
Usman said “we have painstakingly reviewed the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses. We have also painstakingly studied petitioners’ witnesses statements under cross-examination, which support our defence and denial, and are in consonance with our pleadings.“We do not see the need to waste the court’s precious time repeating what we have been saying.
“I short, we will not call any witness to help them prosecute their case. We rely on the evidence of their witnesses under cross-examination.
“One of the witnesses even read the provision of the Electoral Act, where it was provided that electronic transmission of election results is not allowed. There is no need for us to call any witness,” Usman said.
After Usman spoke, the presiding judge Justice Mohammed Garba sought the views of lawyers to the other parties – President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the petitioners.
Wole Olanipekun (SAN), lead lawyer to President Buhari said he was okay with INEC’s decision not to call witnesses.
Olanipekun said his client plans to call witnesses and sought an adjournment till 2 pm on Tuesday to enable the second respondent bring its witnesses.
APC’s lead lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) was also not averse to INEC’s decision but said he will wait for the second respondent to conclude his defence before deciding whether or not to call witnesses.
Petitioners’ lead lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), who expressed delight about INEC’s decision, sought to be allowed to utilise the six days, within which INEC was expected to conduct its case, to tender additional documents.
The court rejected Uzoukwu’s request and said it amounted to an attempt by the petitioners to re-open their case, which they closed at the expiration of the 10 days allocated to them to conduct their case.
Earlier, Justice Garba announced amendment to the scheduled of proceedings in the hearing of the petition, reducing from six to three, the days earlier allocated to parties to file their final written addresses.
He said, in view of time constraint, the court has decided to alter its earlier announced schedule, allowing the respondents to file their final written addresses three days after the close of evidence, while the petitioners will have three days from the day of service.
The respondents are to have two days to file reply on point of law, if necessary after being served with the petitioners’ reply.