Poll dispute: Court gives Tinubu, INEC nod to grill Atiku’s statistician

The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, gave President Bola Tinubu the nod to grill a statistician that appeared as a witness in the case the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, filed to nullify his election victory.

The statistician, Mr. Samuel Oduntan, told the court that he inspected and analysed several sensitive materials that were used for the presidential election that was held on February 25.

He mounted the box as the 21st witness of Atiku and the PDP, who are alleging that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, manipulated the results of the presidential election in President Tinubu’s favour.

Led in evidence-in-chief by counsel for the petitioners, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, the statistician tendered a report of both his inspection and his analysis of the electoral materials, before the court.

Despite stiff opposition by all the Respondents in the matter, Justice Haruna Tsammani-led’s five-member panel of the court admitted the documents in evidence and marked them as Exhibits.

The Respondents, through their respective lawyers, told the court that they would in their final written address, adduce reasons why they objected to evidence from the statistician.

Cited as Respondents in the matter, are; the INEC, President Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

While Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, led INEC’s legal team, President Tinubu and the APC were represented by lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, respectively.

The Justice Tsammani-led panel said it would give all the Respondents the time to cross-examine the statistician who was identified as a star witness.

Meanwhile, before further proceeding in the case was adjourned till Thursday, Atiku’s lawyer, Jegede, SAN, prayed to the court to persuade INEC to furnish his client with the voter register that was used for the presidential election.

The court, which drew INEC’s attention to the request, said it would equally need a copy of the register for its own file.

Even though INEC did not decline the request, it, however, also demanded a copy of the flash drive that contained the evidence of the statistician.

Specifically, Atiku and the PDP are in their joint petition marked: CA/PEPC/05/2023, contending that the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election, was “invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.”

They further argued that Tinubu, who has sworn in as President, “was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the election”.

More so, the petitioners told the court that the President “was at the time of the election, not qualified to contest”.

In a further process, they filed before the court, Atiku and his party maintained that Tinubu had “demonstrated inconsistency as to his actual date of birth, secondary schools he attended (Government College Ibadan); his State of origin, gender, actual name; certificates evidencing Universities attended (Chicago State University).”

“The purported degree Certificate of the 2nd Respondent allegedly acquired at the Chicago State University did not belong to him but to a female (F) described as “F” in the Certificate bearing the name Bola Tinubu.

“The 2nd Respondent did not disclose to the 1st Respondent (INEC) his voluntary acquisition of the citizenship of the Republic of Guinea with Guinean Passport No. D00001551, in addition to his Nigerian citizenship. The 2nd Respondent is hereby given the notice to produce the original copies of his said two passports,” Atiku added.

He argued that the APC candidate did not meet the constitutional threshold and “is constitutionally disabled from contesting for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

Already, the Petitioners have applied to summon the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, to appear before the court as a witness.

They equally summoned the Secretary of the Commission, Dr Rose Oriarian-Anton, as well as INEC’s National Commissioner, Mr Festus Okoye.

Atiku, who came second in the election, is among other reliefs, praying for the court to declare that he was the valid winner of the presidential contest, even as he applied for the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that was issued to the President Tinubu by INEC.

He had in his 66-paged petition, accused INEC of installing a third-party device he said was used to intercept and switch results of the presidential election in favour of the APC and its candidate, Tinubu.