• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Tribunal adjourns sitting till Monday over attack on witnesses

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The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, Friday, adjourned abruptly following the claims that witnesses on their way to testify for the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate in the February 23 election were attacked by unknown gunmen.

When informed of the development, the tribunal abruptly adjourned sitting till Monday, July 15, by the presiding, Justice Mohammed Garba.

Petitioners’ lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), who announced this before the tribunal, said that the petitioners will not be able to call the next witness on Friday following the attack on them on their way from Zamfara State.

The witnesses were said to have been ambushed on the high way and violently attacked to cut short their journey to Abuja.

Uzoukwu disclosed that the witnesses made several phone calls to him on their ordeal.

He said  the  armed men attacked the witnesses and injured some of them while others ran into the bush. Some people are trying to rescue them from the bush, he said.

The senior lawyer said that some of the witnesses claimed to have jumped out of their buses and ran into the bush to escape being killed by the armed men.

The information on the attack came after eight witnesses had testified for Atiku and PDP to the effect that election results were transmitted into the server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the use of short code and smart card readers.

Atiku’s counsel, thereafter pleaded with the tribunal to shift further hearing in the petition till Monday to enable the petitioners reach out to the attacked witnesses.

Atiku and the PDP are praying the tribunal for cancellation of the election that produced President Muhammadu Buhari on the ground of irregularities, malpractices and non qualification  of Buhari to have stood for the election.

Earlier, one of the witnesses and adhoc staff of INEC, Olufemi Ogunrinde told the tribunal that he personally transmitted election results into the server of the electoral body, along with other assistant presiding officers.

The witness admitted that two hours to the election, INEC brought in a consultant who trained them on how to transmit election results into INEC server with the provided short code and smart card reader.

In his testimony, Ogunde an Assistant Presiding Officer in Abuja said that they were given INEC regulation and guidelines where the duties of Assistant Presiding officer were spelt out.

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The witness said that on the day of the election an INEC official further trained them on how to use smart card reader to transmit the election result.

He instructed them to transmit the result with a code provided by INEC official to INEC sever.

“I transmitted the results as recorded in Form EC8A. I have no interest on which of the party won the election so I have no interest in noting the score of each party.”

Answering a question from counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman, the witness insisted that he was given guidelines and regulations for the conduct of the election by INEC during their training.

Another witness, Peter Sabo from Yobe state alleged that the APC used the security challenges in the state to pepertrate electoral fraud.

He alleged that designated centers were used after mobilising voters, contrary to the regulation that voting must be done at the polling units.

Sabo further alleged that he refused to sign result sheets when he discovered that the number of ballot papers issued out by INEC was exactly the number of votes cast for APC, without a voided one, adding that information later came on how APC agents freely distributed ballot papers for voters after PDP agents had been chased away.

The witness told the tribunal that he wrote a petition to the DSS, Police and Civil Defence for the arrest of the identified APC agents who carried out election malpractices, but that nothing has been done till date.

Another witness, Hassam Maisarafa, also from Yobe, testified and alleged that civil servants in the state were harrased, intimidated and threatened to either vote for APC or lost their jobs.

The witness who named some government officials who carried out the threat further informed the chairman that farmers were harassed to choose between voting for APC or forego their farm lands.

Cross examined by counsel to President Buhari, Yusuf Ali, the witness could not tell the tribunal the number of farmers threatened by government officials but further alleged that vote buying was the order of the day during the election.

Other witnesses who testifies d yesterday for the petitioners are, Husseini Haruna, Zakari Ibrahim, Silas Paris, Usman Adamu and Modu Ahmed.