The Hope Democratic Partyon Monday urged the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja, to declare its presidential candidate, Albert Owuru, as the President.
The party, through its only witness, Yusuf Ibrahim, said its candidate had emerged as Nigeria’s President in a referendum held on February 16, 2019.
The petitioners – HDP and Owuru – on Monday, opened and closed their case with the only one witness and some documents tendered as exhibits.
The documents which were admitted as exhibits by the five-man tribunal, led by Justice Mohammed Garba, comprised some copies of newspapers, a document titled, ‘Citizen Observers Referendum Election Right Protection of Nigeria,’ and and Independent National Electoral Commission’s ‘final list of presidential candidates.’
The respondents – President Muhammadu Buhari, INEC and the All Progressives Congress – said they would not call any witness to defend the case and urged the tribunal to order the filing of final addresses.
The tribunal subsequently fixed August 5, 2019, for the adoption of final addresses by the parties.
The petitioners are challenging the victory of Buhari and the APC in the last presidential election on the grounds that the rescheduling of the poll from February 16, 2019 to February 23, 2019 was done without basis.
They contended that with the rescheduling, the presidential election was deemed “abandoned” and paved the way for an alleged “people’s controlled affirmative referendum election” which they said, by 50 million votes, validated Owuru as the elected President.
They claimed that the said referendum was conducted by Citizen Observers Referendum Election Right Protection of Nigeria on February 16, 2019, the date originally scheduled for the presidential poll.
At the opening of the petitioners’ case on Monday, the petitioners’ lawyer, Eze Nnayenlugo, led Ibrahim to adopt his earlier statement on oath as his testimony.
During cross-examination by the APC’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), Ibrahim confirmed that only INEC had the power to conduct an election in Nigeria, but added, “We have referendum where people’s voice should be heard.”
The lawyer asked if the referendum was celestial, not terrestrial. Was it something that happened in the spiritual realm?”
Responding, the witness said, “It was a physical one and not spiritual.”
Asked if the referendum held on the internet, he said “no”.
Asked if it held “on INEC server,” he said “no”.
Under cross-examination by Buhari’s lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN), Ibrahim said he voted at the alleged February 16, 2019 referendum.
He also said he was in Nigeria on February 23, 2019 and voted during the presidential and National Assembly elections which held that day.
Also asked if he was aware that that the 1st respondent, Buhari, was elected and declared the winner in the presidential election conducted on February, 23, 2019, he said “yes.”
He confirmed that he had no document attached to his witness statement on oath as evidence for the 50 million votes allegedly polled by his party’s candidate at the alleged presidential referendum.
He said the documents he had in relation to the said referendum were with his lawyers.
Under cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer, Mr Yunus Usman (SAN), Ibrahim confirmed that he was aware that “it is only INEC that can conduct election today in Nigeria”.
He also confirmed that his party was not laying claim to victory in the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
The petitioners’ lawyer, Nnayenlugo, subsequently tendered some exhibits, to which the respondents’ lawyers objected their admissibility but opted to reserve the grounds of their objection till the final address stage.
The tribunal, through Justice Garba, ordered the parties to exchange their papers between Monday and July 27.
It fixed August 5, 2019 for adoption of final addresses by the parties. [PUNCH]