Armed Bandits Attack Atiku’s Witnesses, Forces Tribunal To Adjourn Session Till July 15

*Witnesses testify Borno, Yobe results transmitted to INEC’s Server

*Civil servants in Borno, Yobe threatened to vote APC or lose their jobs, farmlands

By Editor

Hearing in Atiku Abubakar’s petition challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 presidential election was brought to a halt on Friday when information reached the presidential election petition tribunal that the witnesses of the presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku and the PDP have been violently attacked by suspected armed bandits on their way from Zamfara.

The witnesses were said to have been waylaid and attacked at a location on Zamfara road resulting in their inability to arrive Abuja to give evidence at the tribunal.

Lead counsel to Atiku and PDP, Dr Levy Uzoukwu SAN informed tribunal chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba that he received several phone calls from the witnesses that they have been violently attacked and that some of them jumped from their vehicles and escaped into the bush.

Although the tribunal was to resume afternoon session of hearing in the petition by 2pm, Atiku’s counsel announced that it was not certain whether the attacked witnesses would be able to make their way to Abuja and pleaded with the tribunal to put further hearing till next Monday.

Justice Garba, who sympathized with the petitioners on the plight of their witnesses, adjourned hearing till Monday, July 15.

Before the announcement on the attack of the witnesses, eight other witnesses from Borno and Yobe states had testified to the effect that election results were transmitted into the server of INEC with sort code provided by the electoral body.

They corroborated the evidence of the previous witnesses that the February 23 poll was marred with irregularities ranging from severe threat and intimidation of civil servants in the two states to either vote for the All Progressives Congress APC or lose their jobs.

Similar threats and intimidation were further alleged to have been extended to farmers in the two states to choose between voting for Buhari and APC or forgo their farmlands and further alleged that the threats and intimidation were carried out by top state government officials including some local government chairmen.

The eight witnesses who testified on Friday for the two petitioners are Oseni Haruna, Zakari Ibrahim, Silas Paris, Usman Adamu, Hassan Maisarafa, Peter Sabo, Modu Ahmed and Olufemi Ogunride.

In his own evidence, Ogunride, who was an ad-hoc staff of INEC during the election, confirmed to the tribunal that he, along with other Assistant Presiding Officers transmitted election results into the server of INEC using smart card reader.

The witness told the tribunal that two hours to the election, Assistant Presiding Officers were assembled and trained by a consultant to INEC on how to transmit election results into the INEC server with smart card reader.

Ogunride who said that he received his own training on how to transmit election results to server in Abuja admitted that he personally transmitted results provided by the Presiding Officers into INEC’s server.

Cross examined by counsel to APC, Dr Muiz Banire SAN, the witness confirmed that INEC guidelines and regulations were released to him and others.

In his own evidence, Peter Sabo from Yobe State told the tribunal that both Buhari and APC used the security challenges in the state to perpetrate election fraud.

The witness alleged that voters were mobilized to selected areas to cast their votes instead of their polling units and under the guise by APC of securing their lives.

Sabo further alleged that PDP agents were chased away at the selected voting points after which ballot papers were freely handed over to APC agents to cast unlawful votes.

He said that he refused to sign result sheet because the ballot papers used for the purported election were for APC only without a single void votes.

Sabo further testified that he wrote a petition to the DSS, Police and Civil Defense Corp, but that up till date nothing had been done.

In his own evidence Hassan Maisarafa who named some state government officials that perpetrated alleged election fraud claimed that voters in Yobe were bought over with huge sums to sway them to the side of the APC.

Further hearing in the petition continues on Monday.