The opening day of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) hearing witnessed the acceptance of crucial evidence in the petition filed by the Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu. Led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Jubril Okutekpa, the LP presented five exhibits marked as Exhibits PA (1 to 5). One of these exhibits included a copy of a United States court judgment that alleged Tinubu’s conviction with a $460,000 fine for drug trafficking.
On Tuesday, May 30, the tribunal, presided over by Haruna Tsammani, admitted these exhibits and the deposition of the first witness, Lawrence Uchechukwu Nwakaeti. Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) raised objections against admitting the judgment as evidence. During cross-examination by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), representing Tinubu, Nwakaeti acknowledged that the judgment was not registered in Nigeria. However, Nwakaeti affirmed that he had read the judgment in its entirety during his visit to the United States and would be surprised if the $460,000 forfeiture was not mentioned.
Under cross-examination by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), counsel for the APC, Nwakaeti stated that the American court judgment lacked a certificate from any American police officer. He also denied awareness of a formal clearance report from the American Embassy regarding the alleged indictment and forfeiture. Nwakaeti admitted not having a copy of the charges against Tinubu but maintained that the indictment and forfeiture arose from civil proceedings.
In a separate petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the tribunal admitted the printout of results from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) of all 36 states as evidence. Tsammani accepted the evidence in line with the First Schedule of the Electoral Act 2022. These printouts represented the BVAS results and Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, marked as PG (1-36) and PH (1-36) respectively.
During the opening of Atiku’s petition, his counsel, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), informed the court that the documents were filed at the beginning of the petitions and duly served to all parties, adhering to the legal requirements. However, counsel for the second and third respondents – Tinubu and APC – objected to the admissibility of the evidence, arguing that the documents were not submitted in accordance with the law.
Following the objections, the court admitted the evidence as per its pre-hearing orders, which stated that parties would not contest the certified true copies provided by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The proceedings adjourned to May 31, where further examination of the evidence and arguments from the parties involved are expected to take place.
By presenting crucial evidence challenging Tinubu’s victory, the LP and PDP seek to contest the results of the presidential election, raising concerns about Tinubu’s qualifications to contest and the validity of the votes cast. The court proceedings continue to unfold, shedding light on the intricacies of the petition and the evidence presented.