INEC boss evading service of witness summon, Peter Obi tells court in suit against Tinubu

Mr. Peter Obi, the Labour Party candidate, who has claimed that the 2023 presidential election was rigged, made further accusations on Wednesday, accusing Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), of evading being served with a witness summons.

Obi, represented by his legal team led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, obtained a subpoena to compel the INEC Chairman’s appearance before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja.

The objective was for Yakubu to testify as a witness and provide certain crucial materials used in the presidential election as evidence.

During the ongoing proceedings of the petition filed by Obi and his party challenging the declaration of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the February 25 presidential contest, they informed the court that all attempts to serve the INEC Chairman with a copy of the subpoena had failed.

Expressing frustration over the unsuccessful service of the summons on Prof. Yakubu, Dr. Uzoukwu, Obi’s lead counsel, stated, “My lords, I had expected that we would have completed the stage of document tendering by now.

“I have drawn the attention of the lead counsel to the INEC, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, that the office of the Chairman of the Commission has consistently refused to accept subpoenas to produce certain documents, in spite of efforts of Bailiffs of this court.

“The counsel graciously asked me to give him a copy of the subpoena but I didn’t have an extra copy to give to him, so, he asked me to give it to any member of his team.

“My lords, because I still do not have an extra copy, I intend to get it and send to him once the proceeding of today is over.

“I am confident that he will do the needful for us to continue our case tomorrow,” he added.

Meanwhile, unhappy over the allegation, the INEC, through its lawyer, Mr Kemi Pinhero, SAN, accused Obi of always looking for who to blame for his failure.

Addressing the court, Pinheiro, SAN, said he was not privy to any discussion that Obi’s lead counsel had with any member of the INEC’s legal team.

Pinheiro said: “My lords should take note that it has become a habit for the Petitioners, that whenever they want to seek for an adjournment, they must look for someone to blame.

“I was not privy to any discussion they had with our team leader because all the discussions have been open to members of our group.

“However, it cannot be true that the Chairman of INEC refused to receive the subpoena. In PDP’s case, subpoenas were served, not only on the Chairman but also on some National Commissioners.

“My lords should equally note that all the avalanche of documents they have tendered so far, some of them were certified as far back as in March.

“Yet, every time, they keep complaining that INEC refused to release documents to them.

“The submission that INEC refused to give documents to them, with due respect to the learned counsel, is not true.

“If they want to ask for an adjournment, they should do so and not attempt to use the INEC as a weeping board.

“I want to say for the records that it is not correct that INEC Chairman refused to receive a subpoena.

“The Chairman of INEC has no interest whatsoever. This allegation against him is most uncharitable,” Pinhero, SAN, added.

Counsel for the Petitioners, Uzoukwu, SAN, insisting on his position called on the court to verify from its Bailiffs, if the INEC chairman did not refuse service of the subpoena.

The Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel, however, urged restraint from both parties.

Justice Tsammani said, “There is no need to quarrel over this issue. If a subpoena was refused, counsel knows what to do.

“We should remember that after this case, we will still see each other in court.

“So, let us not allow issues like this to destroy bonds of friendship.”

After Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, representing President Tinubu, and Mr. Afolabi Fashanu, SAN, counsel for the APC, expressed no objections, the court adjourned the hearing on the matter until Thursday.

Earlier in Wednesday’s proceedings, the Petitioners submitted certified copies of printouts of the presidential election results from seven states of the country, which they had downloaded from INEC’s IReV portal. These printouts, certified by INEC, covered 21 LGAs in Benue state, 25 LGAs in Niger state, 17 LGAs in Edo state, 20 LGAs in Bauchi state, 8 LGAs in Bayelsa, 8 LGAs in Gombe state, and 21 LGAs in Kaduna state.

The Petitioners also presented bundles of printouts from unlinked or cancelled LGAs in these states as additional evidence. Despite objections from all the Respondents, the panel led by Justice Tsammani admitted the documents as evidence and marked them as Exhibits.

Additionally, the court accepted a certificate of compliance for the certified Exhibits from 28 states of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

It is worth noting that Obi, who secured the third position in the presidential election, had expressed his intention to call 50 witnesses within the three-week timeframe allocated to him by the court.

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