INEC fails to call witnesses, Buhari opens defence

The Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday opted to close its case without calling any witness in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the outcome of the February 23 presidential election.

With the development, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the second respondent to the petition, was scheduled to open his defence at 2pm on Tuesday.

The petitioners had rested their case on July 19 after calling 62 witnesses before the five-man Presidential Election Petition Tribunal led by Justice Mohammed Garba adjourned further proceedings till Monday (yesterday) for INEC to open its defence.

But when called upon by the tribunal to open its case on Monday, the INEC’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), said it would not be necessary on the grounds that the evidence extracted from the petitioners’ witnesses during cross-examination was in support of the commission’s case.

He said, “We have painstakingly reviewed the evidence of petitioners’ witnesses. We have also painstakingly studied the petitioners’ evidence under cross-examination, which supports our defence and our denial in consonance with our pleadings.

“My lords, we do not see the need to waste your lordships’ precious time by repeating what their witnesses have admitted under cross-examination.

“In that circumstance, we will not call any witness to help them to prove their case. We, therefore, rely on the evidence of their witnesses under cross-examination.”

Speaking with journalists after the Monday’s proceedings, Yunus said the claim by the petitioners’ witnesses as to the existence of a server into which the authentic results of the election were electronically transmitted was discredited when they were being cross-examined.

Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), told the tribunal that his client would call witnesses and requested to be allowed to open his client’s case at 2pm on Tuesday.

The APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said his decision on whether to call witnesses or not would depend on the case to be presented by Buhari’s legal team.

On his part, the petitioners’ lawyer, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), thanked INEC’s legal team for not calling witnesses.

Consequently, the proceedings were adjourned till Tuesday for Buhari to open his defence.