A witness for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr Hitler Nwala testified before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that the results on all 110 BVAS machines he inspected were deleted. The witness, a subpoenaed expert witness, made this claim on Thursday in Abuja while presenting evidence in support of the petition challenging the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
Nwala, who was led in evidence by the petitioner’s lead counsel, Mr. Chris Uche, SAN, clarified that the machines he examined were specifically from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He identified himself as a Digital Forensic Analyst but stated that he did not know the exact point at which the results were deleted on the machines.
During cross-examination by the counsel representing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, the witness confirmed that he attached a standard device to the machine to arrive at his conclusion. When asked if he had the commission’s authorization to attach an external device to the BVAS machine, the witness answered in the affirmative.
Mahmoud further questioned the witness about the proportion of machines inspected compared to the total number deployed. The witness acknowledged that he only compiled the report and did not calculate the percentages, stating that he focused on the inspection rather than the numerical representation.
In an attempt to verify the witness’s claim, the INEC counsel offered a BVAS machine for examination. However, the witness declined, citing professional ethics that prevented him from collecting the BVAS machine in open court for verification.
The testimonies presented by Nwala in court raise significant concerns about the integrity of the electoral process and the deletion of results on the inspected BVAS machines. The proceedings at the PEPC continue as both the petitioner and respondent seek to present their respective evidence and arguments before the court.
“It is professionally wrong to access a device that will be used as evidence in a court of competent jurisdiction because it will temper with the evidence. We cannot access the device directly, what we do is to extract the evidence and take it for analysis.”
Moreover, the witness told the court that since all the devices had the same model and looked the same on the outside, he couldn’t tell if it was one of the ones he inspected by merely looking at it.
For his part, counsel to the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN told the witness that neither he nor any of his team members signed the six-volume forensic report.
The witness, however, insisted that he signed the report as well as the certificate of compliance.
On his part, counsel to President Bola Tinubu, Mr Wole Olanipekun, SAN confronted the witness with a portion of his report where he said that from his inspection of the machines, “nothing was intrinsically wrong with them”.
“Were you in Abuja on the day of the presidential election? If you were not in Abuja, how then can you know that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the machines on the day of the election?”
The witness said that he was not in Abuja and so he couldn’t have known if something went wrong with the machines on the day of the election.
After the witness was discharged, the petitioners went further to tender Forms EC8A series from 20 local government areas of Ogun, 17 local government areas of Ondo, 27 local government areas of Jigawa, and 20 local government areas of Rivers.
The Chairman of the court, Justice Haruna Tsammani adjourned the hearing of the petition until Friday.