NEWS

Election Tribunal: Tinubu Closes Defence In Obi’s Petition With One Witness

Leone, Mr. Ernest Koroma, which highlighted observations made by international bodies, including ECOWAS.

By Isa Mustapha, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu concluded his defence against the petition filed by Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, seeking to invalidate Tinubu’s election victory. Tinubu’s legal team, headed by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, presented one witness, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele, who testified before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja.

During his testimony, Senator Bamidele argued that the votes President Tinubu received in Kano state during the presidential election were inaccurately recorded, resulting in a shortfall of approximately 10,929 votes. He referred to an ECOWAS report on the election, dated February 27 and signed by former President of Sierra Leone, Mr. Ernest Koroma, which highlighted observations made by international bodies, including ECOWAS.

Despite objections from Obi’s lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, the five-member panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani admitted the ECOWAS report as evidence (Exhibit RA-27). Obi’s legal team expressed their intention to address their opposition to the admissibility of the report in their final written submission.

During cross-examination by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, representing the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bamidele, who previously served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and is currently the Majority Leader of the Senate, stated that the list of LP members forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prior to the presidential election did not include Peter Obi’s name.

The witness also asserted that without any filed charges, there could not be a criminal conviction against Tinubu, citing his experience as an attorney practicing in the USA since 1999. He presented original documents demonstrating his membership of the New York Bar.

In a counter move, Dr. Uzoukwu, SAN, representing the Petitioners, submitted the final report of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, which raised concerns about the conduct and outcome of the 2023 general elections. The court admitted a certified copy of the EU report as evidence (Exhibit S-2) despite objections from all the Respondents.

Senator Bamidele read a portion of the ECOWAS report that mentioned wanton destruction of properties and killings leading up to the elections, including the murder of an LP senatorial candidate in Enugu state. However, he disagreed with that aspect, attributing the violence to the IPOB situation rather than the election.

After the witness was dismissed, Fagbemi, SAN, representing the APC, announced that the party would not call any witnesses or submit exhibits in defence of the petition.

Consequently, the panel invoked Paragraph 46 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act and directed the Respondents to file their final brief of argument within 10 days. The Petitioners were given seven days to file their own brief, and the Respondents were required to reply within five days. The court would communicate the date for the adoption of all the processes leading to the final judgment on the case to all parties involved.

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