Tribunal admits EU report as exhibit on presidential poll

The Presidential Election Petition Court, in Abuja, on Monday, admitted in evidence the final report of the European Union Observer Mission on the February 25 presidential election.

The EU report was tendered at the tribunal by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who are challenging the outcome of the poll, in which President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

In its final report presented last week, the EU had declared the election was below expectations.

The Chief Observer of the EU Election Observation Mission, Barry Andrews, at a press briefing,  said, “The election exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signal a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability.”

The EU also said the conduct of the election diminished public trust in INEC.

But the Presidency, on Sunday, in a statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake, accused the EU of bias and an intention to “impeach the integrity of the 2023 elections” which it described as the “best organised general elections in Nigeria since 1999.

Alake said, “We strongly reject, in its entirety, any notion and idea from any organisation, group, and individual remotely suggesting that the 2023 election was fraudulent.”

However, at the tribunal, on Monday, Atiku, through his lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN), tender the EU report while cross-examining an INEC witness, Lawrence Bayode.

INEC, which was joined as a defendant in Atiku’s petition, opened its defence on Monday to prove that the presidential election was credible.

While being cross-examined by Uche, the INEC witness admitted that INEC had yet to upload all the results of the presidential election onto the IRev as of March 1, 2023, when Tinubu was declared winner of the poll.

According to the witness, only 31 per cent of the presidential election result was uploaded onto INEC’s result viewing portal.

He admitted that there was a technical glitch that affected the uploading of the presidential election results which was not reported to Amazon Web Services by the commission.

Under cross-examination by Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN),  the INEC witness stated that images captured on Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, whether transmitted electronically or manually, does not affect the integrity of the election, “especially when the results are announced to the hearing and knowledge of party agents.”

He affirmed that “the outcome of the February 25 presidential election is free, fair, transparent and in substantial compliance with the provisions of the law.”

Apart from the witness, INEC also tendered  four documents to back its case.

It, thereafter, closed its case.

The tribunal, headed by Justice Harunna Tsammani, adjourned till Tuesday (today), for Tinubu to open his defence.

(Punch)