INEC concluded its case on Monday after presenting a witness in Atiku Abubakar’s petition challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu on February 25. Atiku, representing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is urging the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja to invalidate Tinubu’s victory due to significant violations of Nigeria’s electoral laws during the presidential poll. On March 1, INEC declared Tinubu, from the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the election winner with 8,794,726 votes, while Atiku came second with 6,984,520 votes.
During the court proceedings, INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, called their first witness, Lawrence Bayode, an assistant director in charge of INEC’s ICT department. Bayode, an IT expert with extensive experience at INEC, presented his witness statement on oath and was questioned by Mahmoud.
INEC’s lawyer tendered a set of documents, including letters from the APC announcing the withdrawal of Kashim Shettima from the Borno Central Senatorial District elect, who was subsequently chosen by Tinubu as his vice presidential candidate.
Atiku’s lawyer, Chris Uche, objected to the admissibility of the documents, while Tinubu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, and APC’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, did not object to the court’s acceptance of INEC’s documents.
Olanipekun and Fagbemi then proceeded to cross-examine Bayode regarding the deployment of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines by the electoral commission for the presidential election.
In response to Olanipekun’s question, Bayode explained that the images captured on BVAS machines required data services for uploading onto the Internet, but he clarified that photographic copies of polling station results captured on BVAS, whether transmitted manually or electronically, did not impact the integrity of the election.
The witness affirmed that the presidential election conducted by INEC, which was won by Tinubu, was conducted freely, fairly, and in substantial compliance with the electoral act.
During the cross-examination conducted by Mr. Fagbemi, Mr. Bayode clarified that any glitch that occurred on the day of the presidential election did not impact the actual scores of the candidates, as the results for each candidate remained unchanged.
He further stated that there was no electronic collation of results after the voting process, as it was carried out manually.
Mr. Fagbemi then referred to a pre-election notice issued by INEC, which stated that electronic collation of results was not feasible, and Mr. Bayode confirmed its validity.
The notice, issued on November 23, just three days before the presidential election, was published in the Nigerian Tribune Newspaper. A certified true copy of the newspaper publication containing INEC’s notification about the electronic collation of results was presented as evidence and accepted by the court, despite Mr. Uche’s objection to its admissibility.
The commission’s inability to transmit the presidential election results from polling units in real-time has become a significant issue for the court to determine.
Additionally, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, is also contesting the election outcome due to INEC’s failure to electronically transmit polling unit results to its Results Viewing portal for public access.