Peter Obi, a presidential candidate for the Labour Party, submitted two videos as evidence in support of his petition contesting the conduct and results of the presidential election held on February 25.
The petitioners informed the court at the resumed hearing on Friday night that they had served a subpoena on Channels Television demanding the production of the recordings found on two flash drives.
Okutekpa revealed that the TV station received two separate subpoenas, with dates of May 30 and June 6, and that they sent one of their employees to present the required evidence.
The five-member panel, which was presided over by Justice Haruna Tsammani, accepted the subpoenas as evidence and designated them as Exhibits PBH-1 and PBH-2.
According to reports, one of the flash drives contains video clips from an interview the Independent National Electoral Commission chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, gave before the general elections, in which he promised that the election results would be electronically transmitted in real-time.
The other includes Festus Okoye, a national commissioner of the commission, who reiterated the organization’s commitment to electronically transmit the results during a press conference.
An effort was made to present the information in the video clips in open court, and Lucky Obese-Alawode, a senior reporter and editor at Channels TV, was called to testify.
The petition’s respondents, however, vehemently objected to the petitioners’ action.
Akin Olujinmi, SAN, the attorney for President Bola Tinubu, questioned the witness’s credibility on the grounds that his statement was not submitted with the petition.
A petition must be filed within 21 days of the announcement of an election’s results, according to Tinubu’s attorney, citing Sections 4(5) and (6) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022.
He argued that when the petition was filed, the petitioners should have included a list of all required documents as well as a list of the witnesses they intended to call to support their claims.
“A petition that does not abide by the law shall not be accepted,” the law states. My lords, the statement of this witness was served on us after the proceedings today began.
“This is more than three months after the election results were announced.
“The petitioners did not include this witness on their list, and his statement was not included with the petition. He is not a qualified witness who can testify in front of this court, according to that extent, Tinubu’s attorney argued.
He argued that although the petitioners failed to include the aforementioned video recordings in their list of supporting documents, they were aware they would rely on them when they filed the petition.
Obi and LP should have listed the proposed evidence in their petition, the INEC argued through its attorney Kemi Pinhero, SAN, in support of Olujimi’s objections.
The petitioners’ attorney, Okutekpa, SAN, argued that the witness was qualified to testify because the subpoena was a court order over which he had no control.
Despite the objections, the panel accepted the two flash drives as exhibits PBH-3 and PBH-4 and designated them as part of the evidence.
Again, the respondents objected when the petitioners’ attorney requested that the information on the flash drives be played in public, with the exception of the electoral commission, which had no opinion.
Olujimi insisted that no copy of the flash drive had been given to his client.
He added that playing the video clips without first informing his clients of their content might deprive them of their right to a fair trial.
This case is not a game of hide and seek, he said. We have a right to receive a copy so that we are informed and have time to prepare. We will be against allowing it to be played up until we are served.
For his part, Solomon Umoh, SAN, the attorney for the All Progressives Congress, claimed that if the petitioners played the data on the flash drives without first serving it on the respondents, it would amount to an ambush.
Justice Tsammani, the chairman of the five-person panel, issued a ruling on the issue and stated that the respondents’ position is not prejudiced against playing the video clips but rather on their lack of prior service.
Tsammani postponed the case until Saturday, June 10, in the afternoon so that the video clips could be viewed in public.