Nine witnesses called on Thursday by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last presidential election, Atiku Abubakar insisted that results of the elections were falsified to favour the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari.
The witnesses, who said they served as Local Government and state Collation Agents of the PDP,made sunday allegations of result manipulation, voters’ intimidation and harassment, mutilation and tearing of result sheets, and cancellation of election where the petitioners won.
At cross-examination, majority of the witnesses were however unable to substantiate the allegations as contained in their written statements, which they adopted as their evidence in chief before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT).
Nicholas Msheliza, who said he acted as PDP’s state collation agent for Borno State claimed that virtually all the result sheets from the various local governments in the state were mutilated.
Msheliza also claimed that accreditation of voters did not take place in over 200 polling units out of the 3,933 statutory polling units in the state.
Also alleging over-voting in the state, Msheliza said the 911, 786 declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “was well over the accredited voters across the state”.
But, under cross-examination, lawyer to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), the witness said he did not have the true figures of votes actually scored by the parties.
When asked by lawyer to APC, Adeniyi Akintola (SAN),if he visited all the polling units in the state during the election, Msheliza said, “I could not have visited the polling units because of the peculiar security challenges in Borno State.”
The lawyer drew Msheliza’s attention to part of his statement, where he said he “observed in the course of transmitting the results from local government result sheets to the state result sheets wrong figures were being entered by INEC officials.”
Akintola then asked the witness to reconcile his claim that the results were already collated before he got to the collation centre with his assertion,in his written statement, that he observed when the figures were being tendered, Msheilla said “They were merely announcing the results to the hearing of people present.”
John Makama, who served as the PDP collation agent for Sanga Local Government Kaduna, claimed that results were wrongly cancelled by INEC officials in some polling units won by his party, with the intention of reducing the votes of the petitioners.
When asked by Usman to produce the actual scores of his party,which he claimed were cancelled, the witness said he did not have them.
Makama said the result sheets containing the actual scores were submitted to his party, but that they were not attached to his statement that was tendered before the tribunal.
When asked by Buhari’s lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN) whether he would be surprised to know that cancellation of results is not one of the grounds of the petitioners’ case in respect of his Local Government, the witness kept mute.
On how he knew that the allegedly cancelled results belonged to his party, the witness said it was generally known that the PDP was popular in most part of his Local Government, where the results were cancelled and that the APC was only popular in three wards
Bukar Petrol, said he served as PDP’s collation agent in Dambowa Local Government of Borno State.
Petrola claimed that the APC took advantage of the series of bomb explosions carried out by boko haram a day before and on the morning of the election to manipulate the election results.
When asked how he knew all that happened in all the 10 wards and 100 polling units in his Local Government, the witness said the whole election was conducted in the LG Secretariat, because of the problem of boko haram.
Under cross-examination by Ali, Petrol said all the ward collation centres were also located within the LG headquarters, which made it easy for him to move around all the voting points and know witness what was happening.
When questioned further, the witness said although devoted after being accredited with card reader, the electoral process was disrupted later when explosions occurred.
He said everyone ran away when bombs exploded, “and the 2nd and 3rd defendants took advantage of the situation, with the alleged collaboration of members of the civilian Joint Task Force (JTF).
When asked how he was able to monitor what happened during the election, even when he claimed the explosions chased everyone away, the witness said he hid and watched from a distance.
Yau Yusuf said he was PDP’s collation agent in Dass Local Government of Bauchi State.
He said although he was fully accredited and voted, voters were intimidated and harassed.
On why he was able to vote if his claim of intimidation and harassment of voters were that pronounced, the witness said: “the intimidation did not stop me from voting, but it altered the result after the voting process.
“The original result was torn by agents of APC in the office of INEC right at the presence of INEC officials,” he added.
When asked where he kept the torn results, he said they should either be with INEC or the police, who collected the torn results and promised to investigate.
On whether the person, who tore the results has been prosecuted and convicted, the witness said no, “because he is still moving around town.”
When asked why he excluded the information about torn result sheet from he written statement, Yusuf said he did not because the statement was a summary of what happened and that he was at the tribunal to elaborate.
The witness,who claimed to have visited most of the polling units in his local Government, said under cross examination, that “there are 116 polling units my his Local Government. I visited minimum of three in each of the 10 wards in the Local Government.”
When asked why he signed the result sheet if he was not happy with the results, the witness said he signed to obtain a copy of the result sheet for the purpose of the tribunal.
Jafar Abbas Ibrahim, who said he was a collation agent in Zaria Local Government of Kaduna State, also claimed the election process was manipulated against his party.
On whether the alleged vote switching, which he claimed took place in his presence, Ibrahim said he witness some and some were contained in the result sheets passed to him by the party agents at the polling unit and ward levels.
When asked whether the agents were still alive, the witness said they were at home and not before the tribunal.
On why he signed the result sheet, Ibrahim, who said he has been a lawyer since 1981 and was once the Chairman of the Local Government, said he signed just to indicated his presence, “not to authenticate the result.”
Further hearing continues on Friday.
Author: Eric Ikhilae, Abuja