Mr. Peter Obi, a candidate for the Labour Party (LP), who claimed that the 2023 presidential election was fixed, accused Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, of avoiding being served with a witness summons on Wednesday.
Ob had acquired a subpoena to compel the INEC Chairman to appear before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, located in Abuja, through his team of attorneys, led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN.
He wants the INEC boss to not only testify before the court as a witness but to equally produce and tender in evidence, some sensitive materials that were used for the conduct of the presidential election.
At the resumed proceedings in the petition, he lodged to challenge the declaration of President Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the presidential contest that held on February 25, Obi and his party, told the court that all efforts to serve a copy of the subpoena on the INEC Chairman, failed.
While lamenting the inability of his client to effect service of the summon of Prof. Yakubu, Obi’s lead counsel, Dr. Uzoukwu, SAN, said: “My lords, I thought that by now, we would have been through with the stage of tendering of documents.
“I have drawn the attention of the lead counsel to the INEC, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, that the office of the Chairman of the Commission has consistently refused to accept subpoenas to produce certain documents, in spite of efforts of Bailiffs of this court.
“The counsel graciously asked me to give him a copy of the subpoena but I didn’t have an extra copy to give to him, so, he asked me to give it to any member of his team.
“My lords, because I still do not have an extra copy, I intend to get it and send to him once the proceeding of today is over.
“I am confident that he will do the needful for us to continue our case tomorrow,” he added.
However, irked by the allegation, the INEC, through its lawyer, Mr Kemi Pinhero, SAN, accused Obi of always looking for who to blame for his failure.
Pinheiro, SAN, while addressing the court, said he was not privy to any discussion that Obi’s lead counsel had with any member of the Commission’s legal team.
He said: “My lords should take note that it has become a habit for the Petitioners, that whenever they want to seek for an adjournment, they must look for someone to blame.
“I was not privy to any discussion they had with our team leader because all the discussions have been open to members of our group.
“However, it cannot be true that the Chairman of INEC refused to receive the subpoena. In PDP’s case, subpoenas were served, not only on the Chairman but also on some National Commissioners.
“My lords should equally note that all the avalanche of documents they have tendered so far, some of them were certified as far back as in March.
“Yet, every time, they keep complaining that INEC refused to release documents to them.
“The submission that INEC refused to give documents to them, with due respect to the learned counsel, is not true.
“If they want to ask for an adjournment, they should do so and not attempt to use the INEC as a weeping board.
“I want to say for the records that it is not correct that INEC Chairman refused to receive a subpoena.
“The Chairman of INEC has no interest whatsoever. This allegation against him is most uncharitable,” Pinhero, SAN, added.
Though counsel for the Petitioners, Uzoukwu, SAN, maintained his position and urged the court to verify from its Bailiffs, if the INEC Chairman did not refuse service of the subpoena, however, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel, urged restraint from both parties.
“There is no need to quarrel over this issue. If a subpoena was refused, counsel knows what to do.
“We should remember that after this case, we will still see each other in court.
“So, let us not allow issues like this to destroy bonds of friendship,” the Chairman of the panel, Justice Tsammani cautioned the senior lawyers.
Following a no-objection stance by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who appeared for President Tinubu, as well as by counsel for the APC, Mr Afolabi Fashanu, SAN, the court adjourned further hearing on the matter till Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Petitioners had earlier in the proceedings on Wednesday, tendered in evidence before the court, copies of printouts of the results of the presidential election from seven states of the federation, which they downloaded from INEC’s IReV portal.
The printouts, which the Petitioners said were duly certified by INEC, were from 21 LGAs in Benue state, 25 LGAs in Niger state, 17 LGAs in Edo state, 20 LGAs in Bauchi state, 8 LGAs in Bayelsa, 8 LGAs in Gombe state and 21 LGAs in Kaduna state.
The Petitioners equally tendered in evidence, bundles of printouts from unlinked or cancelled LGAs in the states.
Though all the Respondents in the matter, objected to the admissibility of the documents, the Justice Tsammani-led panel admitted them in evidence and marked them as Exhibits.
The court further admitted in evidence, a certificate of compliance for certified Exhibits from 28 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
It will be recalled that Obi, who came third in the presidential election, had indicated his intention to call 50 witnesses within the three weeks that was allocated to him by the court.