The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), yesterday, admitted in evidence, a certified true copy of a final report by the European Union Electoral Observer Mission on the 2023 general elections.
The mission accredited 110 observers from 25 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Canada.
The report admitted and marked as exhibit RA6 said the February 25 election “exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signal a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability.”
Both President Bola Tinubu, his political party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had objected to the admissibility of the report, which was tendered by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The presidency and INEC had already rejected the report describing it as a product of a poorly-done desk job that relied heavily on few persons.
Regardless, INEC which opened and closed its defence in the petition filed by Atiku and PDP told the court through its sole witness, Dr. Lawrence Boyade, that the disputed election was free, fair and in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
The principal witness, assitant director in charge of INEC’s Information Technology (ICT) department, tendered before the court, a document in relation to glitches and cloud trial log as well as the certification attached to it.
He told the court under cross examination that the cloud trial log was downloaded from INEC account with Amazon Web Services (AWS). The documents were admitted in evidence by the court as exhibits RA3 and RA4 respectively amid objections by counsel to the petitioners.
Before that, lead counsel to INEC tendered a set of documents comprising letters from the APC and addressed to the electoral commission, announcing the withdrawal of Kashim Shettima from the Borno Central senatorial district election.
Under cross examination by counsel to President Tinubu, the witness said whether or not images from the BVAS machines were manually or electronically uploaded to IRev, it did not affect the integrity of the election.
The witness noted that “the presidential election conducted by INEC and won by the second respondent (Mr Tinubu) was free, fair and in substantial compliance with the electoral act.”
Under cross-examination, he explained that “the glitch on the day of (the presidential) election did not affect the actual scores of the candidates at the election as results of each candidate remained the same.”
He added that there was no electronic collation of results after the ballot as it was done manually.
The counsel drew the witness’ attention to a pre-election notice by INEC stating that electronic collation of results was not feasible, which Mr. Bayode answered in the affirmative.
Specifically, the notice was issued on November 23, three days to the presidential election, and published in the Nigerian Tribune Newspaper.
Subsequently, a certified true copy of the newspaper publication containing INEC heads-up regarding the electronic collation of results was tendered and admitted in evidence.
But PDP’s counsel objected to its admissibility.
Under cross examination from PDP’s lawyer, Boyade admitted that the essence of the technological innovation by INEC in the 2023 election was to guarantee transparency and integrity of the results.
He equally admitted that the presidential election and the National Assembly election was conducted on same day using same BVAS machines.
The witness further admitted that not all the results of the presidential election were uploaded to IRev before the winner was declared on March 1.
He told the court that the BVAS system has no inbuilt mechanism distinguishing the results of the presidential election from that of the National Assembly.
Boyade, however, maintained that the commission did not have an electronic coalition centre as it was conducted manually.
Meanwhile, President Tinubu will today open his case to defend his victory.
This is in the petition filed by PDP and its presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku.
Counsel to President Tinubu made this known after INEC closed its case against Atiku after calling a lone witness.
The electoral umpire opened and closed its case against the petitioners after calling the lone witness, Mr Lawrence Bayode and tendering some documentary exhibits in evidence.