Five staff members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have been authorized to testify as special witnesses in the petition filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the outcome of the 2023 presidential election. These INEC ad hoc staff members, who were involved in conducting the disputed presidential election, were subpoenaed to appear before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC).
Atiku, who finished second in the presidential race held on February 25, alleged in his joint petition with the PDP that the election was rigged in favor of President Bola Tinubu from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In his 66-page petition, Atiku accused the electoral commission of installing a third-party device that intercepted and manipulated the presidential election results in favor of the APC and Tinubu. He further claimed that INEC replaced its in-house ICT expert with an IT consultant who helped implement the third-party mechanism.
According to Atiku, the IT consultant named Suleiman Farouk facilitated the interaction between the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the IRev Portal, known as the Device Management System (DMS). He argued that the DMS software allowed INEC’s IT Security Consultant, Farouk, to remotely control, monitor, and filter data transmitted from the BVAS devices to the electronic collation system and the IRev platform. Atiku contended that INEC manipulated the election results in favor of the APC and Tinubu using this Device Management System.
The petitioners also stated that the critical components of INEC’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT), including the BVAS, were manipulated with the help of Activate Nigeria Limited, the supplier of the Android devices used by INEC.
During the court proceedings, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, the lead counsel for the petitioners, informed the court that his clients had subpoenaed five INEC ad hoc staff members who were involved in the election to testify as witnesses and present crucial evidence. However, INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, objected, stating that he had received the witnesses’ statements only minutes before the proceedings started. He requested time to review the documents and verify the witnesses’ identities.
Both President Tinubu’s counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, and the APC’s counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, supported INEC’s position, stating that they needed time to study the witness statements provided by the petitioners. The court initially allowed a 30-minute adjournment for the respondents to review the statements but ultimately postponed further proceedings until Thursday to give INEC’s counsel an opportunity to conduct an internal inquiry.
Earlier in the proceedings, the petitioners presented certified copies of election results from ten Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Kogi State. They also called Mr. Ndubuisi Nwobu, the Chairman of the PDP in Anambra State, as their 11th witness. Nwobu testified that during his visits to approximately 30 polling units, election results were not uploaded to INEC’s I-Rev portal in real-time. He further claimed that he was coerced into signing the result of the election by INEC officials who threatened to withhold a copy from him if he refused to sign.
Atiku’s petition seeks, among other things, a declaration that he was the valid winner of the presidential election and the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return issued to President Tinubu by INEC.