The Presidential Election Petition Court admitted in evidence two video clips tendered by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in aid of his petition challenging the conduct and outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
At the resumed hearing on Friday evening, the petitioners through their counsel, Jubril Okutekpa (SAN) informed the court that they had subpoenaed Channels Television to produce the recordings contained in two flash drives.
Okutekpa disclosed that two separate subpoenas, dated May 30 and June 6, were served on the TV station, which he said sent one of its staff members, to tender the requested evidence.
The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel admitted the subpoenas in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-1 and PBH-2.
One flash drive was said to carry video clips of an interview that the Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, granted before the general elections, where he gave an assurance that the results of the election would be electronically transmitted in real time.
The other one was a press conference by a national commissioner of the commission, Festus Okoye, who reiterated the commitment of the commission to electronically transmit the results.
In a move to present the content of the video clips in the open court, a senior reporter and editor at Channels TV, Lucky Obese-Alawode, was summoned to the witness box.
However, the respondents in the petition vehemently opposed the move by the petitioners.
Counsel for the President, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), queried the competence of the witness on the grounds that his statement was not filed alongside the petition.
Relying on Paragraphs 4 (5) and (6) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022, President Bola Tinubu’s lawyer argued that the law was clear that a petition must be filed within 21 days after the declaration of the result of an election.
He contended that the petitioners ought to have attached all the necessary documents as well as the list of witnesses they would call in support of their case, at the time the petition was filed.
He added, “A petition which fails to comply shall not be accepted, that is what the law says. My lords, it was after the proceeding started today that the statement of this witness was served on us. This is over three months after the declaration of the result of the election was made.
“This witness was not listed by the petitioners and his statement was not attached to the petition. To that extent, he is not a competent witness who can testify before this court.”
He contended that the petitioners were aware that they would rely on the said video recordings at the time they filed the petition, yet did not attach it to the list of their documents.
Aligning with the disapproval by Olujimi SAN, the Independent National Electoral Commission, through its lawyer, Kemi Pinhero (SAN), argued that Obi and LP should have listed the proposed evidence in their petition.
However, counsel for the petitioners, Okutekpa (SAN) contended that the witness was competent enough to testify as the subpoena was an order of the court that he had no command over.
The objections, notwithstanding, the panel admitted the two flash drives in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-3 and PBH-4.
Again, when counsel for the petitioners applied for the contents of the flash drives to be played in the open court, the respondents disagreed except for the electoral commission which was indifferent.
Olujimi maintained that his client was not served with any copy of the flash drive.
He further stated that playing the video clips without his clients’ foreknowledge of their content would rob them of the right to a fair hearing.
He added, “This case is not hide-and-seek. We are entitled to be served with a copy so that we can know the content and be able to prepare. Until we are served, we will oppose allowing it to be played.
On its part, counsel for the All Progressives Congress, Solomon Umoh (SAN), said it would amount to an ambush for the petitioners to play the content of the flash drives without first serving the same on the respondents.
Ruling on the matter, the chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Tsammani, held that the position of the respondents was not prejudiced against playing the video clips but on their non-service beforehand.
He, however, adjourned the matter to Saturday afternoon for the video clips to be played in the open court due to time constraints.
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