Three officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) testified in court on Friday as the hearing on the petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar continued.
Naija News understands that Abubakar is challenging the results of the 2023 presidential election.
The witnesses, who had served as ad-hoc staff during the elections, told the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja that they conducted the election at their polling units before handing over results to the Ward Collation Officers.
Despite their roles, the witnesses admitted to the court that they could not electronically transmit the results from their polling units in real-time due to issues with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device.
They also discussed INEC’s instruction not to give the final copies of the election results, which were recorded in Form EC8A, to political party agents if they failed to sign the result sheet.
Former national youth corps member and Presiding Officer during the election, Grace Ajogbenna, testified in court as the 14th petitioners’ witness.
Ajogbenna expressed her frustration to the court, noting that she was unable to transmit election results using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
After securing the INEC ad-hoc job by applying online, Ajogbenna said she prepared a report for INEC following the election. She provided the court with her appointment letter for validation.
Abidemi Joseph, serving as the 15th petitioners’ witness, also offered her insights into the election process.
Like Ajogbenna, Joseph had worked as a Presiding Officer, but in Niger state. Her appointment letter from INEC was also presented to the court as part of her testimony.
She told the court that the election went smoothly at her polling unit, adding that she appropriately entered results of the election in Form EC8A.
She told the court that all the party agents signed the election result after which she took the result sheet to the ward collation center.
According to the witness, upon getting to the center, she handed the original copy of the Form EC8A to the Ward Collation officer of INEC after she had furnished all the party agents with duplicate copies of the Form EC8A.
The witness said, “I was trained by INEC. It was part of our training that unless party agents signed, we should not give them duplicate copies of the result.”
While being cross-examined by counsel for President Tinubu, Mr. Yusuf Alli, SAN, the witness, said she did not force any party agents to sign the result.
She told the court that the first interaction she had with the BVAS machine was in the course of her training by INEC.
She said, “The first time I used the BVAS was at the National Assembly and Presidential elections.
“I successfully handed over the original copy of the Form EC8A to INEC collation officer, after the election.
“At the training, I was told that as a presiding officer, that I must stay at the place of my engagement and not move to any other area.”
While also being cross examined by counsel for the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the witness said she was appointed as a Presiding Officer, two days before the election.
She also told the court that she accepted the offer the same day.
On her part, the last witness, PW-16, Obosa Edosa, from Ovia South West of Edo state, said she was in a hurry after she got a call to appear as a witness before the court and therefore forgot the printed copy of her appointment letter from INEC.
However, she adduced evidence of payment she got from INEC at the end of the election.
Though INEC did not oppose the admissibility of the payment slip, however, President Tinubu, through his lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, raised an objection against it.
Giving her evidence, the witness, said: “On the day of the election, I arrived at the polling unit around 10am. We had to set up our things before voting started.
“I did the accreditation of voters using the BVAS and the voters’ register. The process went well and actual voting started after then.
“Afterwards, we sorted and counted the votes and recorded the results in the Form EC8A. We entered the figures manually and after that I signed and the party agents signed.
“Everything went well, apart from the transmission of the results with the BVAS.
“As a Presiding Officer during the election, I performed my duties very well.”
She told the court that a Form EC40G, which is the summary of registered voters in polling units were election did not hold, was issued to her polling unit.
All respondents in the petition, including INEC, President Bola Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), initially opposed the decision to bring forward five INEC ad-hoc staff members to testify.
Despite the opposition, Justice Haruna Tsammani-led panel allowed the witnesses to testify, reserving its ruling on the objections for a later date.
Atiku alleged in his petition that the presidential election was rigged in favour of President Tinubu and the APC.
He accused INEC of installing a third-party device to intercept and switch the election results, replacing its in-house ICT expert with an IT Consultant who facilitated the alleged manipulation.
The court will continue to hear the case and rule on the objections at a later date.