Just two days after they opened their defence before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, APC, closed their case on Thursday, August 1, 2019.
They were assigned six days to defend their case in the petition by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar.
But the parties are satisfied that they have sufficiently discredited the petitioners’ case and calling more witnesses will not only be a waste of the panel’s time but an overkill.
PDP and Atiku closed their case on July 19 after calling 62 witnesses.
They proposed to call 400 witnesses to prove their case against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the victory of the ruling APC and its presidential candidate.
On Monday, when INEC was billed to open its defence, the electoral umpire told the court that it had decided not to call any witness.
It said the testimonies given by the petitioners’ witnesses had helped its cause.
President Buhari opened his defence on Tuesday by tendering documents and calling three witnesses. He called four witnesses on Wednesday, following which the court adjourned until yesterday for continuation of trial.
But when proceedings opened on Thursday, August 1, 2019, Buhari’s lead lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), told the court that the 2nd respondent (Buhari) had resolved to close his case, after on being satisfied that it has sufficiently discredited the petitioners’ case.
Olanipekun said: “We have studied both the hard and soft copies of the petition. We have also studied both the hard and soft copies of the evidence presented by the petitioners vis a vis the issues that we, in our humble view, found to have arisen for contention in this petition and the evidence that have been adduced.
“We have come to the decision that it is time to restrict the legal duel to the four corners of this court by those who are learned in law.
“Thus, we are very satisfied with the evidence we have led and we will be closing the case of the 2nd respondent and prepared to address this court on issues of law in our final written address,” Olanipekun said.
The lead lawyer to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), spoke in a similar vein.
Fagbemi said his team had closely scrutinised the evidence led so far, particularly the performance of the respondents’ witnesses under cross-examination, and had concluded that “there is no need engaging in a needless exercise of overkill”.
“We, the 3rd respondent announce that we are satisfied with the evidence proffered and the exhibits tendered. In the circumstances therefore, I, as the leader of this team, announce the closure of the case of the 3rd respondent,” Fagbemi said.
He prayed the court to allow the three days granted the respondents to file their final written addresses to begin to run from Monday, August 5, 2019.
Fagbemi said: “There are documents that are germane to the preparation of our written addresses. We need time to retrieve them.”
While Olanipekun and lawyer to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN) agreed with Fagbemi, that the respondents’ three days should begin to count from next Monday, the petitioners’ lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), objected.
Uzoukwu noted that since granting Fagbemi’s request will leave the respondents with seven days, the petitioners should also be granted seven days to file their final written address.
Ruling, the head of the court’s five-man panel, Justice Mohammed Garba granted the prayers by Fagbemi and Uzoukwu.
Justice Garba said with the indulgence granted parties, the filing and exchanges of final written addresses by parties shall close by August 16.
He adjourned until August 21, for the adoption of the final written addresses by parties.
Among the three witnesses called on Tuesday by President Buhari was his Chief of Staff, COS, Abba Kyari, who said as at November, 25, 1946, when Atiku claimed he was born in Jada, Adamawa State, Jada was part of Northern Cameroon, which was also referred to as French Cameroons
Kyari said by the French policy of assimilation, every child born in Jada, whose parents are from Jada, was automatically Cameroon citizen until when the 1961 plebiscite was conducted.
The President’s CoS also said that before the plebiscite, Atiku’s parents also qualified as Cameroonians.
Kyari’s evidence boosted the position of the APC, in its reply to the petition by Atiku and the PDP, that the party had no candidate in the last presidential election, having fielded Atiku, a non-Nigerian by birth, and that the votes recorded by the party were wasted.
The APC had argued that by Section 131(a) of the Constitution, a person must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth to be qualified to run for president.
On Wednesday, the President called four witnesses, among whom was the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Household and Social Events), Mohammed Sarki Abba, who confirmed that Buhari possesses secondary school certificates.
Abba, who was equally led by Olanipekun to adopt his written statement as his evidence in the case, also identified some documents tendered in court, which he referred to in his statement, one of which was Exhibit 26, the President’s curriculum vitae (CV).
Under cross-examination by Usman, the witness said he had been with Buhari for over 30 years and that Buhari has, since assuming office as the President, addressed the country in English language.
Under cross-examination by Fagbemi, Abba identified Buhari in the photograph of the 1961 graduating students of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, earlier admitted in evidence by the court and marked as Exhibit 22.
The witness explained that the difference in the spelling of Buhari’s first name, as identified by the petitioners in some documents, do not distract from the fact that the names refer to the Buhari, who sat for and passed the examination.
Abba said variation exists in the spelling of Mohammed, depending on where the person comes from. “An English man will say Mohamed; an Hausa man will say Muhammadu; a Yoruba man will say Mohammed, So, it depends on how the name is spelt in your part of the world.”
Under cross-examination by Uzoukwu, the witness said although Buhari’s certificates were not mentioned in his curriculum vitae and FormCF001, which he submitted to INEC, he knew the President possesses the relevant certificates.
Abba said he is “61 plus” and has never served in the military, He said he was neither Buhari’s school or class mate, and that he got the information contained in his written statement from Buhari’s CV and other documents.
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