Peter Obi: INEC unable to defend self, Tinubu in court today as witness ‘could not make it’

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday could not open its defence in Peter Obi’s suit challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu.

Mr Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, is urging the court to nullify Mr Tinubu’s victory on account of alleged electoral fraud perpetrated by INEC, amongst other issues.

The electoral umpire had on 1 March declared Mr Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of Nigeria’s 25 February presidential election.

After Mr Obi finished calling his witnesses over a week ago, the electoral commission was scheduled to commence its defence of the conduct of the February presidential poll.

However, at the resumed hearing on Monday, INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, informed the five-member panel of the court chaired by Haruna Tsammani that the case would not go on as scheduled.

Mr Mahmoud, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told the court that the witness he had scheduled to testify could not make it to court on Monday.

“I was going to take one witness today (Monday), but he couldn’t make it to court this morning,” Mr Mahmoud said before requesting an adjournment.

Responding to the development, Mr Obi’s lead counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, a SAN, expressed his dissatisfaction with Mr Mahmoud for not informing him about the witness’ absence before the day’s proceedings.

Mr Uzoukwu, however, did not oppose Mr Mahmoud’s request for an adjournment.

Similarly, Mr Tinubu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun and APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, both SANs, did not object to INEC’s request for an adjournment.

Afterwards, the court adjourned the suit until Tuesday for further hearings.

At the hearing of Mr Obi’s suit, he tendered several electoral documents comprising Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines reports and results of the presidential election from across states of Nigeria to aid his case.

The Labour Party presidential candidate also called 13 witnesses to substantiate his claims of fraud against Mr Tinubu and INEC’s non-compliance with relevant provisions of the law in conducting the exercise.

The commission’s failure to upload polling units results of the presidential election in real-time to its INEC Results Viewing (IReV) portal is one of Mr Obi’s issues with the election.

He also accused INEC of manipulating the election in favour of Mr Tinubu, who scored majority votes at the poll.

But the electoral commission had blamed technical hitches for its inability to electronically transmit polling units results of the presidential election to its IReV portal.

However, testifying before the court, Mr Obi’s expert witness, Mpeh Ogar, revealed that a report of the health status of Amazon Web Services, which hosts the INEC IReV portal, showed that there were no technical glitches on 25 February 2023.

Ms Ogar, a cloud engineer and architect at Amazon Web Services Incorporated, noted the INEC’s IReV portal did not experience any glitches to justify the failure to upload real-time the polling unit results of the 25 February presidential election.

All of these will be issues the electoral umpire will prove within the one week it is expected to defend its case.

In the race, Mr Obi came third with 6,101,533 votes, winning 11 states and the FCT, Abuja.

He won in Edo, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, Plateau, Imo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Anambra, Abia and Enugu states, and the FCT.

But Mr Tinubu won the election in Rivers, Borno, Jigawa, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Ogun states.

The commission had declared Mr Tinubu the election winner with 8,794,726 votes. Mr Tinubu led in only 12 of the 36 states of the federation.

Meanwhile, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, who came second in the election, is equally challenging Mr Tinubu’s victory.

The commission is expected to open its defence in the suit at 2:00 pm on Monday.

Similarly, a political party, Allied Peoples Movement (APM), launched a legal action to overturn Mr Tinubu’s mandate on the grounds of the inappropriate nomination of Vice President Kashim Shettima as his running mate for the 25 February poll.

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