ABUJA — President Goodluck Jonathan will today defend his mandate before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, and canvass reasons why the April 16 general election that brought him to power, should not be nullified.
A five-man panel of justices hearing the petition against him, yesterday, gave President Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo five days, from today, to adduce reasons why they should not be sacked from office on the strength of the petition before it by Congress for Progressive Change, challenging the outcome of the said presidential poll.
The order was handed to the respondents on a day the Justice Kumai Baayan Akaahs-led panel declined to summon INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to appear in court and explain why he refused to grant the petitioner access to specific election materials it sought to tender as exhibit in court with a view to proving that the presidential election was rigged.
Though CPC ab-initio convinced the tribunal to issue Subpoena Duces Tecum and Subpoena Ad Testificandum against INEC, however, the two orders were yesterday vacated by the panel following a counter-application that was subsequently filed by INEC boss, Jega, asking that the order be varied.
While pleading the court to reconsider the order, Jega had contended that tendering the Biometric Data Bank containing the National Register of Voters that participated in the presidential election across the federation as sought by the petitioner, would endanger the national security.
Arguing through his lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, Jega, maintained that the said order was issued against his office and not his person, even as he specifically urged the tribunal to expunge the following items from the list of exhibits that could be tendered in the matter; the National Biometric Data Bank containing the National Register of Voters, Voters Register evidencing accreditation, Forms EC8A, EC8B, EC8C used for the conduct of the election evidencing return of the results declared at the polling units, wards and local government areas.
Other items he said could not be tendered were, the Certified True Copy of tabulation of ballot papers distribution evidencing the serial numbers of ballot papers shared across the country to polling units, wards and local government areas, the excel application used in computer summation of the result for presidential election used across the nation in the presidential election, and the downloaded result declared in 36 states, a request that was accordingly granted by the panel yesterday.
However, n his short ruling yesterday, Justice Akaahs, held that the petitioner, having closed its case after it had called a total of 44 witnesses that testified before the court, foreclosed itself from activating the subpoena order against INEC, having failed to do so within the time frame allotted for the petitioner to present its case.
He maintained that it was late in the day for the CPC to revisit the pending motion, consequently the subpoena was yesterday vacated and the motion dismissed and struck out.
It will be recalled that INEC has equally closed its defence after it also called four witnesses that testified before the tribunal.
Therefore, with 35 more days remaining for the tribunal to deliver its judgment on the petition, President Jonathan and the PDP, have five days each, to defend the election result that was announced in their favour by the INEC on April 18, 2011.
Meantime, the CPC yesterday expressed its displeasure over the court ruling, describing it as bizarre.
The party through a press release that was issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, yesterday, said it “has noted with unmistakable sadness the un-interrupted descent of the Nation’s Judiciary to the Abyss.”
According to CPC, “the Trajectory of the conduct of the on-going Presidential Election Petition after the illegal removal of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, further reinforces the belief that this may just have been a decided charade.
While lamenting the fact that the Tribunal earlier gave a subpoena order for INEC Chairman, Jega, to appear before it on Tuesday, 20th September with the sought electoral materials, CPC, yesterday, insisted that “in a bizarre twist and unwarranted volte face, the Tribunal unconventionally jumped into the arena and ruled that the Subpoena be dismissed, a relief that the Tribunal magnanimously gifted to the applicant.
“The dismissal of the Subpoena (which was unanimously assented to by all the Tribunal Justices) was not sought by the applicant but ordered as part of the orchestrated arrangement not to give Nigerians the opportunity to scrutinize the integrity of the April 16, 2011 Presidential Elections. Undoubtedly, the Tribunal has lent its weight in assisting the leadership of INEC to cover its perfidious conduct with subterfuge.
“Indeed, as a Party, we are not under the illusion that this crop of players in the Judiciary, with entrenched ‘cash and carry’ culture, can do Justice. However, as an article of faith to the Nigerian People, we shall continue to ‘hang in’ there; using the instrumentality of the Law to expose the banality of our Justice system. We shall continue to hold our heads high in the hope that these current retroactive elements in the Judiciary shall soon fade away. This, too, shall pass!” it added.
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BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI