The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Monday said it would not call any witness to defend its case against the petition filed by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
PDP and Atiku are challenging the outcome of the February 23 presidential election which INEC by its results, declared President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner.
But the petitioners closed their case with 62 witnesses on July 19 after which the five-man tribunal led by Justice Mohammed Garba adjourned further proceedings till Monday for INEC to open its defence.
The tribunal had adjourned till July 29 for the first respondent, INEC, to open its defence.
But when the tribunal called INEC to open its case, the electoral umpire’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), affirmed before the tribunal that it would not be necessary on the grounds that the evidence extracted from the petitioners’ witnesses during cross-examination was in support of the commission’s case.
In his words, “We have painstakingly reviewed the evidence of petitioners’ witnesses.
“We have also painstakingly studied the petitioners’ evidence under cross-examination, which supports our defence and our denial in consonance with our pleadings.
“My lords, we do not see the need to waste your lordship’s precious time by repeating what their witnesses have repeated under cross-examination.
“In that circumstance, we will not call any witness to help them prove their case.
“We, therefore, rely on the evidence of their witness under cross-examination.”
However, Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), asked to be allowed to open his client’s case at 2:00 pm on Tuesday.
APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) asserted that his decision on whether or not to call witnesses would depend on the case to be presented by Buhari’s legal team.
On his part, the petitioners’ lawyer, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), thanked INEC’s legal team for not calling witnesses.
“I profusely thank my brother and friend for deciding not to call any witness,” he said.
But proceedings were adjourned till Tuesday for Buhari to open his defence.
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