The flagbearer of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, presented a reporter from Channels Television as a subpoenaed witness before the Presidential Election Petitions Court sitting in Abuja on Friday.
The reporter was invited to produce the live interviews granted to the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Yakubu Mahmood and the electoral umpire’s spokesperson, Festus Okoye, regarding their assurance about the functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 election.
Obi’s legal team represented by J.S. Okutepa SAN said he subpoenaed Channels Television to play certain videos regarding the election.
A Channels TV Senior Reporter/Editor, Lucky Ukpewo, then came forward to testify.
But Tinubu and Kashim Shettima’s lawyer, Akin Olujimi SAN, raised objection against the competence of the witness to testify in the proceedings.
He said based on the Electoral Act, it is settled that a petition must be filed within 21 days after election results have been announced by INEC, and that all witnesses and evidence have to be itemized in the petition.
He said it was after the resumption of the court today that the petitioner forced on him the statement on oath of the witness standing in the dock.
Olujimi contended that the witness is not listed in Obi’s petition and the law mandates parties to front load all their witnesses in their case whether they are ordinary witnesses or subpoenaed (invited by order of court) ones.
He maintained that the petitioners listed video, audio relating to the election as part of their evidence in their petition.
INEC lawyer, Oluwakemi Pinheiro SAN joined in objecting to the competence of the journalist, saying while the petitioners stated he would produce video and audio recordings of the INEC Chairman, Yakubu Mahmood’s statement, they did not mention the specific journalist or media house being presented.
APC’s lawyer, Afolabi Fashanu SAN, equally aligned with the submissions of Tinubu and INEC in open court, asking the court to refuse taking the witness statement on oath.
Replying to all the respondents, Okutepa said if there is any objection that deserve dismissal, it was the ones raised by the respondents.
He said a subpoena is an order of court issued against any person and such person is competent to testify.
According to him, even when a witness statement was not front loaded in a petition, such a person can be allowed to testify once he has been subpoenaed.
“Ruling on this will be delivered at the point of final judgment,” the panel replied to the parties directing the subpoenaed witnesses to go on.
The witness asked the court to adopt his witness statement on oath.
Lucky was asked to produce the recording of the live interview of INEC chairman, Yakubu Mahmood and that of the electoral umpire’s spokesperson, Festus Okoye.
The witness produced a flash drive to the court.
But Olumiji again asked the court not to admit it as evidence, saying he ought to have been given to study the recording before commencement of proceedings.
He contended that it will deprive his clients the right to fair hearing.
But the court told him not to object to the admissibility of the flash drive, of which he eventually agreed.
Counsel for the APC did not object to the tendering of the flash drive.
“The flash drive is admitted as exhibits,” the panel said.
Okutepa then sought the court’s permission to play the contents in the flash drive.
Olujimi rose up again, saying he has an objection to the flash drive being played today because the petitioners did not serve him a copy of the flash drive.
He said he needs to study the recording so he could know the contents and cross-examine the witness later after getting the flash drive.
The APC legal team aligned with Olujimi.
But INEC’s lawyer, Pinheiro, said he would not object to the flash drive being played today in open court.
The arguments between counsels lasted for over 2 hours.
Justice Haruna Tsammani finally adjourned to Saturday for continuation of hearing.
In its ruling, the panel held that the respondents are not in any way prejudiced if the video is played today as requested by Obi.
However, the court ruled that due to time constraints, it will be played on Saturday.