Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), yesterday, admitted final report of the European Union Observation Mission (EU-EOM) on the February 25 presidential election.

The report was tendered by Dr. Lawrence Bayode, a witness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), during cross-examination by Chief Chris Uche, counsel for Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

The court admitted the evidence despite vehement objection.
This came as Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) applauded the report, saying it would deepen democracy in the country.

In a statement signed by Deputy National Publicity Secretary, James Ezema, CNPP said those who are kicking against the report are doing so based on their political considerations and conveniences.

Recall that the Presidency, in a statement issued by Dele Alake, Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, had said it “strongly rejects, in its entirety, any notion and idea from any organisation, group and individual remotely suggesting that the 2023 election was fraudulent.”

The Presidency berated the EU, saying the organisation merely relied on prejudiced and uninformed social media commentaries and opposition talking heads to arrive at its conclusions. It added that the body failed to provide substantial evidence to impeach integrity of the election outcome.

But CNPP said: “The EU election observation report was a sincere, unbiased, impartial and factual report that will deepen Nigeria’s democracy, especially when the recommendations are taken in good faith.”

It explained: “In the first place, the international body was invited by the Federal Government to observe the 2023 general elections. Government is a continuum, and if the EU Mission was not expected to provide useful report on the elections, why did the All Progressives Congress government invite them?

“Moreover, the EU has been contributing to development of Nigeria’s democratic process over the years, through support and grants to both government agencies and civil society organisations.

“If they were not accused of bias while they were supporting our electoral system all these years, why should their report on the 2023 general elections be tagged partial?”

CNPP added that it expected President Bola Tinubu to “receive the report, study it, and find ways to address issues the EU-EOM raised to prevent future occurrences

Also, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a civil society election observation body, expressed concern over dismissal of the report by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Federal Government.

According to a statement by TMG chairman, Auwal Musa Rasfanjani, local observers and civil society groups had also raised similar concerns about gaps in the electoral process.

He said: “The recommendations by the European Union align with views of many civil society groups and local observers. It is imperative that the government and INEC review those recommendations and work towards addressing gaps in the electoral processes, to make our electoral system more transparent, accountable and participatory, to restore confidence in the process.”

TMG urged Tinubu to “take courage and admit to shortcomings with the electoral process, which is evident by violence and several election petitions going on in the country and reduction in Nigerians’ participation in the polls. He should emulate the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua who admitted that there were gaps in his election and committed to reform the electoral system. Therefore, TMG urges President Tinubu to ensure effective reform.”

In another development, absence of a witness, yesterday, prevented INEC from opening its case in the petition filed by Labour Party’s (LP) presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, and his party against the election of President Bola Tinubu of All Progressives Congress.

The PEPC had, last week, adjourned till Monday, so that the electoral body – the first respondent in the petition – could open its defence concerning the February 25 presidential election, which it conducted.

When the petition was called, lead counsel for INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, told the court that the first defendant had three days to defend outcome of the presidential poll. He said the electoral body had three witnesses to present but regretted that the witness scheduled to give evidence, yesterday, was not in court. He then asked for an adjournment till today.

The request was not opposed by the petitioners, President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima and the APC, who were listed as second to fourth respondents.

Thereafter, the five-member panel of justices of the court, led by Haruna Tsammani, adjourned proceedings till today.

Obi and his party had, on Friday, June 28, closed their case in their petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential election, after the testimony of their 13th witness and the tendering of several documents to prove allegations that the poll was conducted in gross violation of the Constitution, Electoral Act, and INEC guidelines.

Meanwhile, PEPC adjourned to today for President Tinubu to open his defence on legal challenges to his victory.

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