Presidential Poll: Tinubu, APC oppose calling INEC ad-hoc staff as witnesses
President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Thursday, kicked against the invitation of five ad-hoc staff members of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to testify as special witnesses in the petition that a former Vice President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, filed to challenge the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
President Tinubu, who is the 2nd Respondent in the petition that is seeking to nullify his election victory, said he did not have fore knowledge of contents of statements the witnesses deposed on oath before the court.
Arguing through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Tinubu, maintained that the law made it mandatory that such vital statements must be front-loaded ahead of time so as give other parties the opportunity to prepare adequately.
Relying on plethora of decided case laws, President Tinubu, said it was not right for Atiku and the PDP, who are the joint petitioners, to spring a surprise by producing statements of subpoenaed witnesses, midway into the hearing of their case.
Consequently, he urged the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja to reject the evidence of the five subpoenaed witnesses and not accord any probative value to their testimony in the matter.
On its part, the All Progressives Congress, APC, which is the 3rd Respondent in the matter, aligned itself with President Tinubu’s position.
The APC, through its team of lawyers led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, argued that Atiku ought to have included the written statements of the witnesses at the time the petition was filed.
Similarly, the head of INEC’s legal team, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, said he was equally opposed to the court allowing the five subpoenaed witnesses to testify in the matter since their statements were not part of the proof of evidence the petitioners adduced ab-initio.
However, Atiku’s lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, urged the court to dismiss all the objections and okay the witnesses to proceed with their evidence.
Uche, SAN, argued that issues the Respondents raised in their objections were misconceived, stressing that it would not have been possible to front-load the written statements of the subpoenaed witnesses since they were not summoned as at the time the petition was filed.