Chairmanship of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mamud Yakubu, failed to appear before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja.
The tribunal had, on Wednesday, ordered the INEC boss to appear before it unfailingly yesterday at noon.
Yakubu was to appear alongside the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Zamfara State, having been subpoenaed by the tribunal to present some documents used in the conduct of the February 23 presidential election.
Although they did not appear before the tribunal, the said documents were brought and tendered at the tribunal by counsel for the commission, Yunus Usman, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
At about 11.50am Thursday when the tribunal stood down the Peoples Democratic Movement’s (PDM’s) proceedings to prepare to rule in an application, neither Yakubu nor the Zamfara REC was in court.
Counsel to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and the PDP, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) in their separate petitions against President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the presidential poll drew the court’s attention to the directive made on Wednesday regarding the subpoena order on the INEC boss.
“Is the chairman here now? Justice Garba asked counsel to INEC, Usman, in response to Uche’s request.
Usman, however, assured the tribunal that they are working round the clock and that before 12noon they will comply with the court’s order.
However, at the end of proceedings in the PDM’s petition, Uche again reminded the tribunal that the INEC boss was yet to appear in court.
Responding, Usman told the tribunal that the order of the court was to the
“effect that documents should be produced, not that any person should appear before the tribunal.”
Usman further told Justice Garba that the order of the tribunal has been fully complied with the tendering of the said subpoenaed documents.
The documents, which were brought to court were accompanied by a written letter to that effect to the chairman of the tribunal.
Uche, while commending Usman for the efforts, however, requested for a copy of the letter to enable him to ascertain if the documents were complete and same as the ones requested for.
Garba had on Wednesday, issued the order following complains by Atiku that his petition against the election of Buhari was being sabotaged by the INEC chief following his refusal to appear before the tribunal to tender some unnamed documents.
Atiku had, through his counsel, complained bitterly to the tribunal that Yakubu and Zamfara REC have been frustrating him in the 10-day hearing notice given to him by the tribunal to substantiate his allegations and claims in his petition jointly filed with the PDP.
The petitioners had filed two applications on July 9 seeking on order of the court to compel INEC chairman to physically appear before the tribunal and present certain documents listed by the petitioners and the Zamfara REC to produce the election results for Zamfara State in the presidential poll.
Uche, had on the resumption of proceedings on Wednesday, lamented that the commission was yet to respond to the tribunal’s subpoena served on the chairman and the Zamfara REC.
Responding, Usman told the tribunal that he was not aware of the subpoena on Yakubu but that of the Zamfara REC has been complied with, adding that they are waiting for the petitioners to pay the normal fee and collect the said documents.
But in a short ruling, Garba held that orders of the court are sacrosanct and must be obeyed.
“They have been directed to produce documents in the subpoena by noon tomorrow,”
Meanwhile, the tribunal has fixed July 22 for the commencement of hearing and trial of the petition challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP).
Garba announced the date at the end of the pre-hearing session in the HDP’s petition.
The court, while stating the rules for the hearing of the substantive petition, said petitioners would have two days to present their case as well as the respondents.
The Tribunal also allotted 10 minutes for examination, 15 minutes for cross-examination and five minutes for the re-examination of witnesses, respectively.
The respondents shall have three days after the close of evidence to file their final addresses.
The petitioners shall have three days after the service of the respective final addresses to file their own final presentations.
The respondents shall also each have two days after the petitioners file their final address to file their replies on points of law.
The panel also in a unanimous ruling yesterday dismissed two applications filed by the HDP for being incompetent, lacking in merit and an abuse of court processes.
The HDP is asking the court to nullify the 2019 presidential election on the grounds that the Federal Government’s decision to postpone the election was unconstitutional.