Lawyers to President Muhammadu Buhari have expressed opposition to the play back of videos of the February 23 presidential election before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar through their counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) had yesterday applied to play back videos against the election of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Uche also applied to the tribunal to admit former campaign spokesman to Atiku, Segun Sowunmi, as the first star witness in the proceeding.
In the first video, former Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini was seen in Channels TV programme discussing the use of server for the election with anchor, Seun Okinbaloye.
In the second video, INEC chairman Prof. Mahmud Yakubu was seen addressing computer practitioners of Nigeria, where he expressed the intention of the commission to explore electronic collation and transmission of results.
“Whatever is required within the law, we assure we will partner the computer practitioners in the use of technology in the elections,” Prof Yakubu said in the video.
But Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) Yunus Ustaz Usman (for INEC); Alex Izinyon (for Buhari) and Adeniyi Akintola (for APC) opposed the admissibility of the evidence.
“Once the video is played, our interest would be prejudiced,” Usman told the tribunal.
“The video recordings are not part of the documents we agreed to be admitted and give reasons at address.
“They were not front loaded by Paragraph 4(6)(c) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010. This is the greatest ambush. This is a sensitive one and we ought to be put on notice.”
Izinyon said no documents are admitted except they have been front-loaded.
“We are vehemently opposed to the admissibility of this document.”
Also, Akintola said paragraphs 4 and 5 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act contended that the documents are not from official sources.
“The documents were not front-loaded. My lord, they are amending the petition through the backdoor,” he said.
Responding, counsel to Atiku and PDP, Chris Uche (SAN), submitted that on 10th July, parties consented to object and give reserve reasons for their objection during the address.
Uche directed the attention of the tribunal to the pleadings listed in 38, 40 and 44 of the Lists of Documents on the petition, where videos, audio, DVD etc were listed to be tendered in tribunal.
“Therefore, my lord by this agreement reached in prehearing, the petitioners are in order to tender the video. The respondents are also in order in their objection except that they will give reasons at the address,” he said.
“None of the respondents front-loaded any document including INEC that conducted the election,” he said.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Garba, overruled the objection of the respondents and reminded the lawyers about their undertaking to only object and allow every piece of evidence and give their reasons during the final address.
Justice Garba held that Paragraph 7 of the terms of the agreement was that no particular document was excluded from being tendered from the bar.
“The documents now sought to be tendered are therefore clearly within the terms of the agreement,” he said.
“Consequently, for being within the agreement reached by all the parties, documents sought to be tendered are hereby admitted in evidence.”
Subsequently, Uche tendered 48 compact disks of downloaded videos of the election and 48 Certificates of Compliance with Paragraph 47 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 and Section 48 of Evidence Act respectively.
Other video exhibits include: Countdown video of Osun election with server, INEC postponement of election on Channels TV, Video clip of IFES Nigeria Result Transmission, and army brief of President Buhari certificate.
Daily Trust had on Friday exclusively reported that Atiku and PDP would tender and play back videos bordering on the election before the tribunal as they begin the evidence of their star witnesses.