By JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Two subpoenaed witnesses of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 Presidential election on Thursday in Abuja admitted at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) failed to transmit results of the election after the collation.
The witnesses, Mr. Friday Egwuma and Ms. Grace Timothy both Adhoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that the BVAS machine allocated to them developed system error immediately results of the Senate and House of Representatives aspects of the poll were freely transmitted. This is a confirmation of the allegations that has trailed the presidential component of the February 25 election that the results were not transmitted in real time via BVAS in line with the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC guidelines.
In their subpoena evidence, the two workers of the electoral body explained that they had to resort to other means of getting the results across when it became clear that the BVAS machines would not help them.
Egwuma was a Presiding Officer in a polling unit in Abia State while Grace Timothy served INEC in Plateau State.
Apart from the failure of the BVAS machines to transmit the presidential election results, the two witnesses admitted that voting went smoothly in their respective places of work.
They were led in evidence by Atiku’s lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche SAN.
Under cross examination by Mr Abubakar Mahmud SAN, who stood for the electoral body, Egwuma explained he resorted to off line system in place of the BVAS machines.
In her own testimony, Grace Timothy told the Court that the greatest challenge she experienced during the election was the uploading of the presidential election results into the I-Rev portal.
The witnesses were also cross examined by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, who stood for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN who represented the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Earlier, Tinubu and APC had vehemently kicked against the bid by Atiku to engage the ad-hoc staff to give evidence in his petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the 2023 presidential election.
Atiku in the bid to establish the alleged irregularities against the election had subpoenaed three ad-hoc workers of INEC to give first-hand account of their experiences as they related to the presidential election of February 25.
He had specifically requested them to offer explanations on how the results of the presidential election results were transmitted and carried out.
However, Tinubu, represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, objected to the use of statements made on oath by the witnesses to be tendered at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in aid of Atiku’s petition.
The grouse of Tinubu and the APC was that the statements of the ad-hoc workers were not front-loaded at the time of filing the petition.
Olanipekun, SAN who cited several provisions of the law against the use of the witnesses argued that since they were subpoenaed by Atiku as the petitioner, he ought to have front-loaded their statements on oath along with the petition.
He asked the court to reject the witnesses and discontenance their statements on grounds of violating the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
Tinubu’s arguments against the subpoenaed witnesses were adopted by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who stood for the APC and Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN who appeared for INEC.
However, Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche, SAN asked the Court to dismiss the objections on the grounds that they were utterly misplaced and misconceived.
Uche argued that the objections by Tinubu, APC and INEC were deliberate ploy designed to delay proceedings.
The senior lawyer insisted that the statements of the subpoenaed witnesses could not have been front-loaded along with the petition because they have not been summoned at the time of filing the petition.
He asked the Court to discontenance the objections of the three respondents and hold that they are not regular additional witnesses envisaged in the law cited by Olanipekun.
Although the Court stood down for ruling, the Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, on resumption, announced that ruling in the objections had been reserved.
Justice Tsammani, however, ordered that the evidence of the three subpoenaed witnesses be taken and the respondents to cross examine them.
Meanwhile, further hearing in the petition has been adjourned to June 9.