16th September, 2011
Continuing with its presentation before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Thursday, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, alleged that President Goodluck Jonathan used scores of armed policemen and soldiers to divert sensitive electoral materials, an action which the party claims, compromised the presidential election.
The party made this allegation before the 5-man panel of justices on the tribunal, reserved ruling on an application made by the petitioner which sought leave of court to tender software evidence that it said would reveal how the April 16 Presidential election was rigged by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in connivance with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The panel, presided by Justice Kumai Bayang Akaas, reserved ruling on the application indefinitely after it had listened to oral testimonies of seven witnesses called by CPC.
Testifying before the tribunal, the witnesses, Mohammed Lawal Suleiman, Embarage Abbayi, Ibrahim Musa, Bito Martins, Bulama Waziri, Nwagbara Ogina Chijioke Eze, alleged that they saw security operatives thumb printing ballot papers in Zamfara, Taraba, Jigawa, Abia, Cross River, Sokoto and Enugu states.
Efforts by President Jonathanâ€™s lawyers as well as those of INEC and the PDP to persuade the tribunal not to hear the oral evidence was rebuffed by the presiding judge, who gave the witnesses the nod to narrate their experiences.
In a Statement on Oath which was made available to newsmen after the proceedings, Mr Ibrahim who said he was a roving agent of the CPC in Jigawa state, averred that the presidential election took place in the country on 16th April 2011. That the 3rd Respondent who is the incumbent President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ordered a ban or unlawful restriction of movement and deployment of armed and civilian security outfits who equally ordered the use of the police and army transport equipment for the deployment of sensitive electoral materials without the participation of the petitioner which led to the interference by agents of the President, his party, the PDP and INEC into meddling with these sensitive electoral materials which compromised the presidential election.
â€œThat the restriction on movement of Nigerians as ordered by the President was a ploy to take umbrage under security cover for his agents to tamper with sensitive electoral materials in order to gain undue election advantage.â€
The tribunal equally entertained arguments from both the petitioner and all the respondents on the propriety of admitting a fresh evidence sought to be tendered by the CPC as exhibit, in view of the fact that the request is coming after the statutory pre-hearing session on the case had elapsed.
While opposing the application, President Jonathan, the PDP and INEC urged the tribunal to reject the request, describing it as a subtle attempt by the CPC to amend its petition.
They argued that the party failed to establish an extreme circumstance that warranted it to file the application outside the pre-hearing session.
Counsel to the CPC, Mr Dipo Okpeseyi, a senior advocate of Nigeria while arguing the application, which was supported by a 55-paragraph affidavit deposed to by the partyâ€™s national secretary, Mr Buba Galadima, pleaded with the tribunal to extend time for the petitioner to call additional witnesses as well as to file additional witness statements on oath.
He maintained that the request was an aftermath of a ruling delivered by the tribunal on 6 September, which barred the CPC from taking copies of any material used in the conduct of the presidential election.
â€œThis application is not to amend the pleadings in the petition but due to exceptional circumstances beyond our control such that we could not afford to be frustrated as a result of the ruling,â€ the lawyer pleaded with the tribunal.
INECâ€™s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo in his opposition told the tribunal that trial has already begun in this matter and 18 witnesses have been called by the petitioner and that the application is no longer an issue of right but a rare privilege.
He also added thay the frustration or whatever problem that prevented the petitioner from taking copies of electoral materials, was self-induced by them.
He further contended that the CPC was aware that it had no right to take copies of the biometric database of voterâ€™s register in custody of INEC since the 24th of May, therefore it cannot be a ground of extreme circumstance as nothing was shown by the petitioner capable of swaying the discretion of this court in its favour.
Specifically, CPC is seeking to tender a â€œBlog extracts from Lagos, GTUG, of Femi Taiwo (lead Software Developer) of INEC Open Voterâ€™s Registration Project (The software used by INEC for voterâ€™s registration) which it said would show how the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, manipulated the 2011 voterâ€™s registration exercise with a view to ensuring that the ruling party, PDP, retained presidential power.
â€”Nnamdi Felix / Abuja