Dispute over the presidential polls: Five INEC staff members will testify against Tinubu, APC.

In the petition that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party, filed to challenge the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, five ad hoc members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have been granted permission to testify as special witnesses.

Subpoenaed to appear before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, were members of the INEC ad hoc staff who were involved in the disputed presidential election results.

In the joint petition he filed with his party, Atiku, who finished second in the presidential race that took place on February 25, claimed that the election was rigged in favor of President Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

In his 66-page petition, the former vice president claimed that the electoral commission had installed a third-party device that was used, according to him, to alter the presidential election results in favor of the APC and its candidate, Bola Tinubu.

He also said that INEC had replaced Mr. Chidi Nwafor, its in-house ICT expert, with an IT consultant who helped it install the third-party mechanism before the election.

Atiku claims that the aforementioned IT consultant, Mr. Suleiman Farouk, ensured that the device served as an intermediary between the Device Management System, or DMS, and the IRev Portal.

He told the court that the DMS was the software that allowed Mr. Farouk, INEC’s IT Security Consultant, to control, monitor, and filter data sent from the BVAS devices to the electronic collation system and the IRev platform from a distance.

“For the purpose of the election, the 1st respondent, INEC, hired Tinubu, a 2nd respondent appointee, to manage and supervise the sensitive ICT department of the 1st respondent. “The petitioners contend and shall lead evidence to show that the first respondent, contrary to the original design of the BVAS machine to upload data directly to the electronic collation system and the IReV portal, devised and installed an intervening third-party device (Device Management System) that, in its normal use, is meant to secure and administer the first respondent’s technological ecosystem for the elections but was used to intercept the results, quarantine and warehouse them, and filter them before releasing them to the IRe

“The First Respondent manipulated the Election results in favor of the Second and Third Respondents by utilizing the aforementioned Device Management System.
The petitioners added, “The petitioners state and shall lead expert evidence to show the critical components of the 1st Respondent’s Information and Communications Technology, ICT, including but not limited to the BVAS, which is an Android Device manufactured by Emperor Technologies China and supplied to the 1st Respondent by Activate Nigeria Limited.” The petitioners also stated that they would present expert evidence to support their claims.

“As a result, lead counsel for the petitioners, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, informed the court at the resumed proceedings in the petition yesterday that his clients had subpoenaed five INEC ad-hoc staff members who were involved in the conduct of the election to appear as witnesses and to also tender sensitive materials in evidence. He added that of the five observers, three of them were in court.

However, lead counsel for the INEC, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, raised an objection as soon as the first subpoenaed ad-hoc staff was summoned into the courtroom and mounted the witness box.

Mahmood, SAN, INEC’s attorney, informed the court that he was only served with the witness statements a few minutes before the proceedings began, insisting that he would need time to review the documents in order to effectively cross-examine the witnesses.
Moreover, INEC’s attorney said there was likewise the requirement for him to return to the Commission to check and affirm the personalities of the observers in order to learn in the event that they for sure filled in as impromptu staff during the political race.

Both Boss Associated Olujinmi, SAN, who showed up for President Tinubu, as well as direction for the APC, Ruler Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, fell in line with the place of the INEC.

The respondents kept up with that the would require time to concentrate on articulations of the observers that was served on them by the solicitors.
Even though the five-member panel, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, initially chose a 30-minute standoff to allow the respondents to examine the statements, it later deferred further proceedings in the matter until Thursday to allow INEC’s attorney to conduct his internal investigation.
Counsel for the petitioners presented certified copies of the presidential election results from 10 local government areas (LGAs) in Kogi State earlier in the proceeding. He also presented Mr. Ndubuisi Nwobu, Chairman of the PDP in Anambra state, as the eleventh witness in the case.

During the election, Nwobu told the court that he was the PDP’s state collation officer. He also said that the election results were not uploaded to INEC’s I-Rev portal in real time in about 30 of the polling places he visited.
The witness told the court that officials from INEC made him sign the election result because they said they wouldn’t give him a copy unless he signed it.

As per him, “Each work made to transfer the outcomes to the I-Fire up entrance fizzled. Witnesses said that “magic started happening at the ward level,” and that some INEC officials would have been abused by enraged voters if he hadn’t intervened quickly.

The witness, Fagbemi, SAN, said he wrote a letter after the election to complain about all the anomalies he saw and the obvious non-compliance with the Electoral Act while being cross-examined by the APC lawyer.
“My objection was not about the BVAs, but rather that results were not transferred to the I-Fire up entrance as we were guaranteed broadly by the INEC director,” the observer added.

Even as he requested the cancellation of the Certificate of Return that INEC gave to President Tinubu, Atiku is requesting, among other reliefs, that the court declare that he was the legitimate winner of the presidential election.