PEPT: Atiku, Obi To Call 100, 50 Witnesses Against Tinubu, INEC

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Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) that no fewer than 100 witnesses are ready to testify against President-elect, Bola Tinubu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“The petitioners intend to call not more than 100 witnesses.” Chris Uche, Mr Abubakar’s lawyer, told the Court on Saturday morning.

He further revealed that he and the respondents have agreed on the number of witnesses to take the stand as well as the minutes to be allotted to each witness.

“The parties have all met and considered and agreed on the witnesses and duration of the examination of witnesses and the examination in chief, cross-examination and re-examination and we have also agreed to streamline the number of witnesses as well as the duration of each party to call witnesses subject to ratification by the honorable court,” Mr Uche told the Court.

According to him, it was proposed that 30 minutes be allocated to the star witnesses of the respondents which include INEC, Mr Tinubu and his party, APC.

“We also proposed 30 mins for evidence in chief and 30 mins for cross-examination of the star witnesses for the respondents,” disclosed Mr Uche.

He added that the petitioners “are suggesting that there should be no cross-examination of a respondent witness by a respondent” stressing that “the petitioners intend to call not more than 100 witnesses.”

Meanwhile, Haruna Simon Tsammani, the chair of the five-member panel of justices, adjourned the case to May 22, following Roland Otaru’s request to adjourn the matter for the consolidation of petitions from the Labour Party and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).

Mr Otaru, a lawyer on Mr Tinubu’s legal team, requested adjournment because of the absence of the team’s lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun.

The Court has scheduled Monday, May 22, for the ruling on the application to livestream proceedings.

In a related development, the Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, have told the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that they will call no fewer than 50 witnesses to testify in their petition.

LP and Mr Obi are challenging the election of President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

Counsel to the petitioners, Awa Kalu (SAN), said this on Saturday in Abuja at the resumed proceedings of the pre-hearing phase before the court’s five justices.

“We still have a few hiccups at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) because of the order of this court made on March 8, directing the commission to allow us to carry out forensic investigation of BVAs, which we have not been able to do.”

To this end, Mr Kalu said his clients would require seven weeks within which to present their petition in court.

The senior lawyer told the court that with regard to timing, his team was suggesting that 30 minutes be allotted to the witnesses classified as “star witnesses” to demonstrate any electronic evidence.

He, however, said the 30 minutes excluded the time that would be used to demonstrate video evidence or any other electronic evidence.

“For this class of witnesses, they will be cross examined for 30 minutes by each respondent, and re-examination will be for five minutes.

“In respect of other witnesses, we suggest 10 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 10 minutes for cross-examination by each respondent and five minutes for re-examination.

“For the respondents, we suggest 20 minutes for the evidence-in-chief of their star witnesses, 30 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.

“For their other witnesses, we suggest 20 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.”

Counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, said his client who conducted the disputed election planned to call five witnesses to defend the election of Mr Tinubu.

Mr Mahmoud told the court that his team would require seven days to argue their client’s case.

He said the commission was proposing 30 minutes for its star witness to give the evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.

“For the regular witnesses, we propose 10 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.”

He opposed the suggestion by the petitioners that a separate time be given to their expert witnesses for demonstration.

He also said he was not aware of any hiccups between the petitioner and the commission, as was alleged by the counsel to the petitioner.

Roland Otaru, SAN, arguing for Messrs Tinubu and Shettima, said he would call 21 witnesses to defend his clients’ challenged victory, excluding expert witnesses.

He requested that all expert reports be front-loaded to the respondents within 48 hours.

On timing, he suggested that 20 minutes be allotted to expert witnesses for their evidence-in-chief, 30 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.

“For regular witnesses, we suggest 10 minutes for evidence-in-chief, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for re-examination.”

Mr Otaru prayed the court to make an order that the schedule of documents to be tendered should be exchanged between parties before the hearing.

For his part, Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), said his client needed only nine days to call its seven witnesses, excluding subpoenaed witnesses.

He agreed with the report of Mr Otaru with regard to the timing for each witness.

He, however, said the petitioners had front-loaded only three witness statements and wondered why they would need 49 days to call three witnesses from only three polling units.

The court’s chairman, Justice Haruna Tsammani, having heard all arguments, urged counsels to meet and reach an agreement on the issue of consolidating the petition.

He adjourned the matter until May 22 for the continuation of pre-hearing.

The counsel to INEC had, amongst others, moved an application for the court to strike out ground two of the petition.

Culled from Peoples Gazette & NAN.

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